Joy Morton, founder of the Morton Salt Company in Chicago, had a long-standing love for trees. This passion grew from his father, Jay Sterling Morton, who founded Arbor Day in 1872.
As Joy got older, he wanted to make his own environmental mark on the world. He had a vision in 1922 to take a piece of land in DuPage County and make an arboretum.
“An arboretum is a tree museum”, says Rita Hassert, the Library Collections Manager at Morton Arboretum. “That’s probably the simplest definition, but the arboretum is so much more than that.”
The arboretum displays its immense collection of trees and plants, offers community classes, and even has a library dedicated to their mission of planting trees.
“I often times think that people think Mr. Morton came to this beautiful site and put a fence around it but actually it had been farmed, it had been logged, it had been pasture land. So, he set about hiring not only landscape architects, but people to support his vision to plant trees. So, within those first years, they were planting literally hundreds of thousands of trees and other woody plants,” said Hassert.
The grounds cover more than 735 acres and includes a variety of environments like marsh, meadow and prairie.
“The beginning was about growing and shaping the arboretum, changing the land, digging the lakes and things like that,” Hassert adds. “As the arboretum grew and developed, people started to come and then an education program was created.”
The education program continues to be a cornerstone for the arboretum, encouraging people of all ages to learn the value of trees and the value of the natural world. This includes a new campaign for tree conservation, called the Champion of Trees.
Kelley Regan, Public Relations Manager at the Morton Arboretum, says, “The Champion of Trees is really something that the Morton Arboretum has been for 93 years since we started. It means somebody who looks at the trees and takes care of trees. It doesn’t necessarily mean somebody that is watering a tree everyday, but somebody who thinks about trees in their lives.”
A few tips for taking care of your trees include giving it water on a dry day, placing mulch around the roots, and occasionally trimming branches.
Whether you’re looking to explore 189,000 types of plants and trees, or to learn more about how to care for your own, visit www.MortonArb.org.
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