Inspiration comes from many places. This Arbor Day we celebrate Walt Disney’s Dreaming Tree, where as a child he found much of his inspiration. A large Cottonwood tree located on the family farm in Marceline, Missouri, it was said that Walt and Ruth would spend warm days enjoying the shade of the towering canopy. Stretched out on his stomach he would explore the world within the blades of grass practicing “belly botany” or wading through the stream that burbled past. A small sign accompanying the tree reads, “Daydreaming under the giant Cottonwood, young Walt Disney would observe the whole of nature surrounding him – the bugs, animals, birds and sounds of the wind.”
Arbor Day began in Nebraska with nature lover and Detroit transplant J. Sterling Morton. A journalist and newspaper publisher by trade; he used this platform to advocate the planting of trees. His message promoted the benefits of trees in retaining top soil, industrial uses like building material and fuels, and respite from the oppressive heat of the Midwest during the summer months. Many of his fellow pioneering Nebraskans missed the trees they enjoyed in the east on the plains they now called home. From these early efforts, Morton grew the profile of Arbor Day until it was recognized by the state in 1885.
Today, states and many nations recognize Arbor Day, celebrating with tree planting events and education promoting the value of trees to communities, regions and the world. The date observed for Arbor Day varies by region to follow optimal planting seasons, with dates ranging from January through May.
Struck by lightning several years ago, the original Dreaming Tree is slowly reaching the end of its life, but with true Walt Disney vision its legacy will live on for generations to come. As the towering cottonwood slowly shrinks shedding limbs, a nearby neighbor gradually accepts the responsibility of inspiring the next generation of imaginations. Planted in 2004 a sapling descended from the original Dreaming Tree, fostered by the Disney Company at one of the parks, was transplanted to the old family farm in Marceline, Missouri. This Arbor Day contribute to imagination; plant a tree.
Volunteer Coordinator at The Walt Disney Family Museum