What do you give to a couple on the occasion of their wedding a clock, bed sheets or cash? What do you give the parents of a newborn baby a receiving blanket, a cute clothing item or cash? What do you give the family when a loved one dies flowers, a card or a memorial cash contribution to a select charity? All of these are good and meaningful. There are some cultures that do something more lasting and significant, they plant a tree in honor.

This author recently visited an older widowed gentleman in Wexford County to walk through his property with him. He pointed to a small grove of large red pine trees that appeared to be about 60 years old. The owner said he would never consider cutting those trees. His parents planted those trees in honor of his marriage over 60 years ago. These trees were a living tribute that reminded him every day of a wonderful occasion.

So many occasions come into our lives and we wonder what we can offer as a gift to honor the occasion. Consider offering to plant a tree. Some occasions are obvious, a birth, a marriage or a death. Graduating classes can contribute to their time as students at a particular school by planting a tree. But think beyond the obvious. Family reunions can be remembered as everyone gathers to plant a tree before departing. Careers can be honored at retirement by planting a Tree of Honor. Even something a simple as a special friendship can be honored by planting a tree. A tree is living yet can endure the test of time.

When you consider giving a Tree of Honor consider where you or the recipient wants the tree to be planted. It can be planted at the home, in a public place, or at a place of personal significance. If you want to plant this tree in a public location, make sure to get permission and talk with the city or town manager. Many managers of public places would be glad for the donation of a tree.

What kind of tree. Different trees can have meanings. Oak trees can represent strength and endurance. Cherry trees, because of its early blossoms, represent awakening and rebirth. Pine trees often symbolize celebration. A Japanese maple tree symbolized rest and retreat.

Before choosing a tree, make sure the tree is well suited for the site where it is to be planted. Talk to a landscaper or nurseryman about where you would like to plant the tree. Make sure the planting location anticipates a much larger and taller tree. Don’t plant it too close to a building or under a power line. Don’t plant a small seedling in a place that is mowed. Many seedlings never survive a season of lawn mowing.

Make it personal as possible. There are online opportunities to have a tree, or trees, planted in honor of someone. They will send you a certificate that a tree was indeed planted according to the size of the gift. But actually, planting the tree, and watching it grow, is a part of the memory and the honor.

Plant the tree as a family, if the tree is a gift from a family. Children will remember planting that tree. They will watch that tree grow as they themselves grow. Be willing to care for that tree for the first growing season, if it can not be easily watered. Remember the whole idea of a Tree of Honor is that the tree will survive and live long enough to bear that honor.

If a tree is planted in honor of a lost loved one, it can be planted incorporating the cremated remains of that loved one. This requires some special planning.

As we begin to see the signs that winter is losing its grip on northern Michigan, think of reasons to plant a tree.

If you would like more information, please contact District Forester, Larry Czelusta at 231-775-7681 extension 3 or email him at larry.czelusta@macd.org.

Larry Czelusta is the Outreach Forester for Wexford, Missaukee and Kalkaska Counties. For more information about trees and forestry, contact Larry by phone, email or stop by the office at the USDA Service Center at 7192 E. 34 Road (Boon Road) in Cadillac.