ETMC plants living Christmas tree in Arbor Day event

TYLER, TX - In the spirit of Arbor Day, East Texas Medical Center Tyler is planting a living Christmas tree on April 30 on the front lawn of the hospital.  The Leyland Cypress will first stand approximately 11 feet tall, and is expected to grow three feet per year on average.

"Over the past months, we have had the desire to replace our cut holiday trees with a real tree that we can watch grow over the years," explained Elmer G. Ellis, president/CEO of the East Texas Medical Center Regional Healthcare System.  "We are excited to plant this cypress in recognition of tree conservation, and to help start the Mayor's new tree-planting initiative for Tyler."

The ETMC tree will be called the Tree of Hope, with each holiday light to serve as a symbol of hope for patients.  Over the years, ETMC has held a community and employee event to start the holiday season and to provide inspirational messages on the "everyday miracles" that can occur in the medical environment, Ellis noted.  Past honorees at the Christmas tree-lighting ceremony have included ETMC kidney transplant recipients, as well as KLTV meteorologist Mark Scirto and Tyler Police Sergeant Terry Morrow, both of whom were treated for serious neurological disorders.

Prior to this year, ETMC Facilities Grounds Supervisor Britt Spiers was in charge of finding an East Texas tree of approximately 35 feet to serve as ETMC's holiday tree.  For the new tree, Spiers consulted with several horticulture experts on the keynote evergreen to stand on the hospital's front lawn, and the Leyland Cypress was considered best.

"We put a great deal of thought into both the interior and exterior of the hospital since an attractive, comforting environment is important to the healing process for our patients and their families," said Ellis.  "The campus grounds feature a wide variety of trees and shrubs indigenous to Texas and the southern United States."

These include Bald Cypress, Shumard Red Oak, Live Oak, Willow Oak, Loblolly Pine, American Sycamore, Weeping Yaupon, Crape Myrtle and varieties of Azalea.  ETMC plans to continue to add more green space and garden areas around the hospital grounds in the months and years ahead, as part of its master plan.  Arbor Day is a nationally-recognized observance that encourages tree planting and care. Founded by J. Sterling Morton in 1872, it is celebrated on the last Friday in April.