When it comes to national holidays, Arbor Day often gets the short end of the stick. [NOTE: This and all subsequent tree puns intended.] You don't get presents out of it, nor do you stuff your face with turkey on it -- it's not exactly a crowd favorite. Also, it's usually overshadowed by the much broader and trendier Earth Day, also in April. (Aw, nuts!)
But let's look at the facts. Trees generate oxygen. They bear fruit. They give us shade and shelter. They're the most selfless things on the planet. Bottom line, trees are awesome.
That's why we're celebrating Arbor Day by honoring the biggest foliage icons in pop culture (of which there are surprisingly many). So go out on a limb, check out our list, and plant a tree! Who knows, maybe one of those seeds will grow up to be the next Guardian of the Galaxy...
Giving Tree ("The Giving Tree")Harper & Row
First up, a callback to your childhood! Many of us probably grew up reading "The Giving Tree," a coming-of-age children's book about a boy and his arboreal BFF. Alas, the boy turns out to be kind of a flake, while the Giving Tree, by its very nature, gives the boy everything he wants until it's little more than a stump. To that we say, "You the real MVP, Giving Tree!"
Great Deku Tree ("The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time")Nintendo
The Great Deku Tree is sorta Nintendo's answer to the "Aladdin" Cave of Wonders: one part exposition machine, one part magic chamber filled with peril. But unlike the Cave of Wonders, our polygonal, oaken friend has some rockin' facial hair -- er, molding.
Tree Of Life ("The Lion King," Disney World)Disney Parks
Speaking of Disney, "The Lion King" has its own wooden mascot, the Tree of Life, which also doubles as Rafiki's swankified shaman pad. In fact, this tree is so awesome that it's also the centerpiece of Animal Kingdom at Disney World, featuring over 300 animal carvings.
Grandmother Willow ("Pocahontas")Disney
Grandmother Willow is another of Disney's sentient trees, playing a spiritual guide to Pocahontas, but with plenty of "snap in her old vines." She also sings "Listen With Your Heart," composed by Disney music gurus Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz. Sage, thy name is Grandmother Willow.
Whomping Willow ("Harry Potter")Warner Bros.
Here's a syllogism straight out of Hogwarts' Herbology textbook: "All trees are assh***s. All Whomping Willows are trees. Therefore, all Whomping Willows are assh***s."
Come on, you knew at least one Grass-type Pokémon was going on this list. While there are several other pocket monsters that resemble trees, Exeggutor is the first of its kind (Pokémon #103, if you're counting). It's also the only Pokémon, along with its pre-evolved form, that is able to learn Barrage -- which, if we're being honest, is a pretty useless move. Regardless, he's a Pokémon that looks like a palm tree! What's not to love?
Parliament Of Trees ("Swamp Thing")DC Comics
Marvel isn't the only one with a tree-based superhero. Actually, DC Comics' Parliament of Trees is an entire organization of Plant Elementals, dedicated to protecting all things branchy. Created by Alan Moore in 1986, the team's most prominent member is Swamp Thing, but the Parliament has also been known to interact with original Green Lantern Alan Scott and Batman's Poison Ivy. Oh, and they also have a freaking dinosaur-dragon called Swamp Knucker, so... yeah.
Camphor Tree ("My Neighbor Totoro")Toho
The giant camphor tree in "Totoro" is about as mysterious and abstract as the friendly spirit that dwells within it, but it's still an iconic piece of imagery in Hayao Miyazaki's animated masterpiece. The movie also gets bonus "Arbor Day" points for inspiring the Japanese "Totoro Hometown Fund Campaign," which helped preserve areas of satoyama in the Saitama Prefecture.
Banyan-Grove Tree ("Avatar: The Last Airbender")Nickelodeon
Of all the trees on this list, the banyan-grove tree in "Avatar: The Last Airbender" (and its sequel series "The Legend of Korra") might be the most insanely ancient. In addition to harboring stock "mystical powers," its roots extend for countless miles, creating perpetual shoots of new trees across the Foggy Swamp and, some say, the world. Yeah... just let that sink in (take root?) for a second.
Treebeard ("The Lord Of The Rings")New Line Cinema
"Tree? I am no tree!" Uh, yeah dude, you kind of are. The word "tree" is literally in your name. Anyway, Treebeard is among the oldest creatures in Middle-earth -- the Ents -- and is also their esteemed leader... What does he do, you ask? Well, when he's not holding tedious council meetings or chilling with hobbits, he and his cohorts are kicking ash in Isengard.
Jabe ("Doctor Who")BBC
Whovians know Jabe as a Tree of Cheem, as well as a fiercely loyal ally to the Ninth Doctor. She also witnessed the destruction of Earth in the year 5,000,000,000, so that's pretty cool. While Jabe only appears in one episode of "Doctor Who," her life-ending sacrifice to save the Doctor is felt even now, three (or four) Doctors later.
Tree Of Souls ("Avatar")20th Century Fox
Let's just say what we're all thinking -- there's some weird s**t going on with the Tree of Souls.
Talking Apple Tree ("The Wizard Of Oz")MGM
The original gangster of sentient trees, the apple tree in "The Wizard of Oz" only makes a brief appearance in the 1939 movie -- alongside his equally crabby brothers -- but he very well may have started this whole "talking tree" craze.
Groot ("Guardians Of The Galaxy")Disney/Marvel
Had you worried for a sec, didn't we? How could we forget our old pal Groot? He's the Brad Pitt of trees! Plus, just look at those dance moves -- a perfect bookend to our list of most poplar trees.