18 January 2010

Arbor Day Celebrations at Agius De Soldanis

by: Mr S Mizzi (Science Teacher)

Since 80 years in the second week of January Malta celebrates the arbour week. Events are held around the country highlighting the benefits of planting and conserving trees to offset carbon emissions and for greening to improve the quality of life and uplift the environment, and communities living within. 

Throughout the entire week of January 11-15, 2010 schools within the Gozo college are engaged in celebrating Arbor Day.  Activities include mainly tree planting at various schools throughout the college community.
At Agius De Soldanis Girls’ Secondary School, form one students spent some class time this week learning about the value of planting trees. But on Arbour Day, Friday January 15th, twenty students took a hands-on approach. The students of Form 1 Narcis class helped plant one narrow leaved ash on the school grounds.

The event was held in the school endemic tree garden, which garden is reserved only for endemic trees and schrubs planted year after year to mark the Arbor day.  During the second lesson, Form 1 students took part in a tree planting ceremony, by helping in the planting the tree of the year chosen for the occasion, a narrow leaved Ash tree Fraxinus angustifolia.

Narrow leaf Ash  (Fraxinus angustifolia)

narrowleaf ash treeDescription
Narrow leaf ash is an elegant, fast-growing deciduous tree to 15.2 - 24.4 m tall with a spread of 9.1-12.2 m. This is a compact, small-leaved ash. All the ashes have opposite, pinnately compound leaves, with the leaflets arranged in opposing pairs on the rachis and an odd leaflet at the end. The leaves of narrow leaf ash are 15.2-25.4 cm long with 7-13 leaflets, each about 7.6 cm long. The leaves are often in whorls of three and the leaflets have no stems. Foliage is dark green, turning yellow or purple in autumn. The horticulturally insignificant flowers appear before the leaves in early spring. The fruits are 3.8 cm flat papery winged samaras borne in crowded hanging clusters.

Narrowleaf ash is native to southern Europe, western Asia and Northern Africa.

narrowleaf ash

Narrowleaf ash does better in acidic soils than most other ash species, but it still does fine in neutral to slightly calcareous soils. This ash grows faster than other species. While young, narrowleaf ash should be kept to a single leader to prevent forked crotches that can cause structural problems later on.

Light: Full sun.

Moisture: Narrowleaf ash is more tolerant of dry soils than most other ash species, although it still cannot be considered drought tolerant.

Propagation: Sow seeds while still fresh in fall. Cultivars are grafted or budded onto seedlings.

Narrowleaf ash is used as a specimen, shade and street tree. It tolerates coastal conditions, urban and smoke pollution, and strong winds. The foliage of narrowleaf ash has a finer and the tree itself is smaller and more appropriate for the home landscape.

In autumn the leaves of 'Raywood' turn purplish wine coloured which inspired the selection's common name claret ash.

02Besides this rare species of deciduous trees, the students planted a selection of saplings of aromatic shrubs and herbs commonly used in the kitchen and which are common to the Mediterranean region.  These included: ganfri, nagħnieħ, curry, klin (rosemary), sage (salvia officinalis), and thyme  (thymus vulgaris),


Salvia, Sage  (Salvia officinalis) is native to the Mediterranean region and commonly grown as a kitchen and medicinal herb or as an ornamental garden plant.





Sagħtar, Thyme  (Thymus vulgaris) or Common Thyme is a low growing herbaceous plant, sometimes becoming somewhat woody. It is native to southern Europe. It is much cultivated as a culinary herb.




History of Arbor day.

 05Ever since it was first established by American politician Sterling Morton in 1872, Arbour Day has been an opportunity to appreciate and celebrate trees.

Although Arbour Day originated in 1872 in the United States, it has only been celebrated in Malta since 1929. We owe thanks to Mr. J. Sterling Morton, who convinced the local Nebraska state board to set aside a day for planting trees, knowing the importance of this factor in our lives and leaving us with the following inspiring words:
"Other holidays repose upon the past; Arbour Day proposes for the future."
Arbour Day caught the imagination of many, knowing the vital purpose of every tree that stands tall across the world. It provides means of safety, shelter and shade to our community.

Collective enthusiasm for the importance of this issue in Malta, inspired the national government, in 1929, to extend the celebration of Arbour Day to National Arbour Week; the second week of January every year. Schools, businesses and organizations are encouraged to participate in community "greening" events to improve the health and beauty of the local environment and propose a green future for the island.

We can protect our indigenous tree cover by creating awareness amongst people who damage trees through ignorance never cutting down trees from the natural afforestation zones, nor remove any creature or living plant without permission.

Arbour Day rests a wonderful opportunity to teach children about the importance of trees and the environment in our community.

And while we all know the basic science of why trees are so important, people are up to this very day revealing even more scientific data about trees and their many connections to the ecosystems we live in.


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