State Trees and Why We Have Them
Pop quiz: What’s your official state tree?
Here in Utah, we’ve had two of them. In 1933, after several foiled attempts to bestow that honor on the box elder, the Utah Federation of Women’s Clubs took action. In its January meeting, members passed a resolution to introduce a bill designating the blue spruce. As a testament to the long reach of the Women’s Clubs, the Utah Legislature passed the bill in the record time of one hour.
The blue spruce remained Utah’s official state tree for 80 years. But not everyone was happy with it, especially after 1939, when Colorado declared the “Colorado Blue Spruce” as its arboreal mascot — same species, slightly different name. The juniper was another candidate, but the Utah Cattleman’s Association feared that a state designation would endanger the juniper removal program that was opening up more state grazing land.
Fast forward to 2013, when fourth-graders from Monroe Elementary School petitioned then-Governor Gary Herbert to change the state tree to the quaking aspen, and provided good reasons.
First, aspen trees are present all over Utah, covering 60% of Utah’s forest cover. They provide habitat for deer and elk that roam our foothills. Their autumn colors brighten our mountains. And, aspens often grow as clones, spreading outward from a single root system, a symbol of Utahns’ connectivity and the strong ties between parents and children.
So, on March 25, 2014, Governor Herbert made the quaking aspen Utah’s State Tree, signing the declaration with a pen made from aspen, while seated on an aspen rocking chair at a desk made of aspen.