Arbor Day

In celebration of Arbor Day, plant a tree for free!

The Shaw Nature Reserve will mark the celebration on Saturday, April 6, by giving away tree saplings to visitors on a first-come, first-served basis.

Fifty black gum (Nyssa sylvatica) and 50 nannyberry (Viburnum lentago) saplings will be available at the Bascom House from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. or while supplies last. Planting instructions will accompany each sapling with helpful tips on planting trees in the spring. The species offered are native to Missouri.

The black gum, also called sour gum or black tupelo, has been in cultivation since 1750 and can grow to one-hundred feet tall. Its brilliant foliage makes it a popular ornamental. Black gum is becoming a popular landscaping tree. It offers an impressive scarlet fall color and lacks the spiny balls of the unrelated sweet gum. Many animals eat the fruit.


The nannyberry is uncommon in the wild in Missouri, though it is gaining in popularity as a native-plant landscaping favorite. Best adapted to northern Missouri for use in windbreak and landscape plantings, it boasts purplish red fall color, with rose and green highlights. Native Americans used viburnums medicinally. Many birds and mammals eat the fruits. It grows to a maximum height of 18 feet.

“We are pleased to be giving saplings away to homeowners interested in planting trees on their property,” said Lydia Toth of the Shaw Nature Reserve. “By doing this, we encourage the diversification of plants introduced into the landscape, in order to create a more sustainable environment. The trees are dependable performers, disease and insect tolerant, and of outstanding quality for the home landscape.”

The first Arbor Day was observed on April 10, 1872 in Nebraska, created as a way to increase awareness about the importance of trees. In 1970, former president Richard M. Nixon proclaimed the annual federal celebration of National Arbor Day. Today, Arbor Day is celebrated in all 50 U.S. states, and variations of the observance are celebrated in countries around the world including Japan, Israel, Korea and India.

National Arbor Day falls on the last Friday in April, but individual states observe the occasion on different dates depending on their best tree-planting times.

The tree giveaway in included in the admission of $5 for adults, $3 for seniors (ages 65 and over) and free for children ages 12 and under. Missouri Botanical Garden members and Shaw Nature Reserve passholders are free.

The Shaw Nature Reserve is located on the south side of Interstate 44 at exit #253 in Gray Summit, Mo. (less than ten miles past the Six Flags exit).

For more information, visit or call (636) 451-3512. Follow the Shaw Nature Reserve on Facebook at