Flowering trees near Mississippi River

31 Days of Trees

In Minnesota, the month of May has been designated Arbor Month.  As a state, we’ve been celebrating Arbor Day since 1876 and in 1978 we extended the celebration to an entire month. This year, my friend introduced me to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resource’s #31DaysOfTrees Challenge which encourages people to post photos and videos to TwitterInstagram, and Facebook. May just so happens to be my favorite month for walking so I knew I was up for the challenge.

Trees on the Green Line at the University of Minnesota

Walking the Green Line

Benefits of Trees

This daily photo challenge has helped me set aside time every day to reflect on the important role trees play in the lives of Minnesotans.

The Department of Natural Resources lists these health benefits of trees:

  • Trees help reduce skin cancer.
  • Trees and shrubs can reduce stressful noises by 50%.
  • Trees decrease mental stress and promote healing.
  • Trees clean the air and reduce air temperatures.
  • Tree-lined streets encourage walking.

The City of Minneapolis highlights the following benefits of the urban forest:

“Our urban forest cleans the air, shelters wildlife, catches water runoff, cools our homes, provides us with food and makes our city more beautiful.”

The Minneapolis Park Board, which plants and cares for more than 200,000 boulevard trees (trees in the space between the sidewalk and the street) adds that our urban forest “improves quality of life, increases property values, lowers heating and air conditioning costs, reduces stormwater runoff and prevents erosion, and provides wildlife habitats.”

Photogenic Trees

While I did think about those benefits, they are difficult concepts to capture through snapshots on my walks. So, I set out to focus on the artistic qualities of trees I encountered. I captured the different shapes, sizes, colors, and textures found in our urban forest. In photography, trees also play an important role in framing subjects such as the Minneapolis skyline or a sunrise over a lake.

By concentrating on trees for the month of May, I searched for unique trees or special tree moments while on my daily walks in Minneapolis where I live and work.

Flowers and Fragrance

The timing of Arbor Month meant that the first several days were focused on budding and blooming trees. Perhaps it was because I was paying closer attention, but I think this was a banner year for buds and blooms!

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Trees at Sunrise and Sunset

Favorite trees

On one of my walks, I found a magical Burr Oak tree spanning 2-3 front yards on the east side of Lyndale Avenue between 40th and 41st Streets. My friend Jeff commented on Instagram that it was one of his favorite trees. My favorite tree happens to be on a walking trail near West Minnehaha Parkway and 49th Street.

Giant tree at W 49th Street & Minnehaha Parkway

Giant tree at W 49th Street & Minnehaha Parkway

Trees and Trails

Trees and water

Richfield Lake Park trees

Richfield Lake Park trees

University of Minnesota Trees

I work at the University of Minnesota so several of my tree photos were taken on the Twin Cities campus. I love how the trees look against the beautiful (or “interesting”) architecture across campus. This spring, campus was bursting with pink, green, and of course maroon and gold.

The Shoe Tree at the University of Minnesota

My walking companions posing in front of “The Shoe Tree”

When compiling a mental list of trees I knew I wanted to include in my #31DaysOfTrees, University of Minnesota’s “Shoe Tree” was one of the first that came to mind.

Another common tree sighting on campus is what I call the ‘Mocking Tree. In the warmer months, you’ll find hammocks hanging from the trees and its inhabitants reading or just hanging out.  It was hard to return to my office after seeing these two living the good life.

Hammock in a tree

‘Mocking Tree’

Heritage Trees

To mark the final day of Arbor Month and the #31DaysOfTrees Challenge, I visited a Minneapolis Heritage/Minnesota State Champion American elm. In Minneapolis, Heritage Trees are recognized as very large, very old, or having cultural or historic significance. St. Paul has the Landmark Tree Program which recognizes remarkable trees. Minnesota has the Native Big Tree registry which recognizes the 52 native trees judged to be the largest in the state.

I plan on using these two maps to visit some local Heritage and Landmark trees. I use these types of maps to create walking routes so I’m always exploring new places.

Support Minnesota Trees

Communities throughout Minnesota have programs that encourage planting and caring for trees. Here’s a sampling:

  • Celebrate Arbor Day the last Friday in April and Arbor Month in May
  • Volunteer to care for trees in your community
  • Adopt a tree through Brewing a Better Forest
  • Apply to be on St. Paul’s Tree Advisory Panel (TAP)
  • Plant a tree and care for it by watering it once a week for the first three years

Get Your Daily Dose of Trees

Janelle Nivens

About Janelle Nivens

Janelle is an urban explorer who likes to challenge herself to walk long distances (40 miles is her record). She lives in southwest Minneapolis with Scott and their adorable dog Stewie and works at the University of Minnesota. Janelle documents what catches her eye on long walks in hopes of inspiring others to discover hidden gems in their own communities. Walk with her on Instagram, Twitter (@Janellie23), and FitBit.