As the support poles are being driven into each side of my freshly-planted pecan tree, I lean back to admire the sapling in all its verdant glory. This baby pecan tree, along with a line of newly-planted saplings of pines and pecans, is the work of environmentalists, politicians, and even children to celebrate this year’s Martin Luther King’s Day.

To quote one of the greatest civil leaders in the history of America: “For in the true nature of things, if we rightly consider, every green tree is far more glorious than if it were made of gold and silver.” Perhaps this quote about planting trees is why one of the most common Martin Luther King’s Day activities is planting trees.

For those who want to go the extra mile in celebrating the day, here is a list of trees to plant in honor of the great Martin Luther King, inspired by his many famous quotes.

1. “The time is always right to do what is right.”

the dogwood tree
the dogwood tree

Said during the 1965 commencement address at Oberlin College in Ohio, this Martin Luther King quote on justice urges you to treat people with dignity, courtesy, and respect, and that it is never too late to do the right thing.

When we treat racism as a tacenda, we empower it with the freedom to spread. When we speak out and condemn these heinous actions, not only are we taking away the power they gained from racism, but we are also educating people on the matter. Would Black Lives Matter have happened if no one had spoken up?

The tree that best corporates this fiery spirit is the Dogwood tree. According to Bower And Branch, the Dogwood tree means safety, loyalty, kindness, stability, wishes, and protection, all of which are qualities from Martin Luther King that we wish to have a little more of.

2.  “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

Ghaf tree
the Ghaf tree

The ’10s were a decade of social injustice being combated fiercely on all fronts, with the Black Live Matter movement being the flagship movement. However, those who were marching would agree that just having pure courage and perseverance isn’t enough. Because fighting fire with riots, destruction, and looting isn’t the answer.

One of the most inspirational quotes of all time, this Martin Luther King quote on love urges people to have compassion and tolerance even during the most trying times, and to spread love and kindness instead. That’s why the Ghaf tree, nature’s symbol of tolerance and love, is the perfect choice as a memorial tree for Martin Luther King’s Day.

3. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

 the Chestnut tree
the Chestnut tree

While we would like to believe that justice is usually and justly served in all cases, reality has taught us that the justice system is not always justified. For every Derek Chauvin, there’s a George Zimmerman. This Martin Luther King quote on justice reminds us of something important here: speak out in the face of injustice. After all, isn’t that how the Black Lives Matter movement started, if everyone had stayed silent?

While there are many trees that symbolize uncompromising, unrelenting, and unbiased justice, the most popular one is the Chestnut tree. According to Patheos, it also represents a personal desire for the common good for others and oneself. The Chestnut tree definitely lives up to the spirit of this Martin Luther King quote.

4. “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”

the Oak Tree

This famous Martin Luther King quote was first heard on September 12, 1962, at the Park-Sheraton Hotel in New York City to commemorate the centennial of the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation. The unwavering faith in courage and righteousness behind it, however, still resonates with us even today.

This quote emphasizes Martin Luther King’s faith in our courage to take the first step in doing the right things. Among all the trees, the Oak tree, a symbol of bravery and righteousness, is one of the best options for Martin Luther King’s Day. Under its expansive canopy, we can call upon these qualities to fight the good fight against racial injustice. 

5. “Forgiveness is not an occasional act; it is a constant attitude.”

white birch tree
the birch tree

Ephesians 4:31-32; “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.” Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. “

To forgive someone is to pardon or renounce your anger toward them. While the Bible constantly reminds us to have compassion towards others, it is easier to hold on to anger, especially when facing injustices committed based on racial biases.

This Martin Luther King quote about forgiveness urges us to have compassion and to practice it constantly and willingly. By forgiving others, you are letting go of your anger, and allowing past and repaired injustices to be bygones. This leaves more room for your healing, as well as a brighter future.

The tree that best carries this message is the Birch tree. An evergreen tree, it is a symbol of hope and new beginnings.

6. “If you can’t fly, then run, if you can’t walk run, then walk, if you can’t walk, then crawl, but by all means keep moving.”

magnolia flowers
the Magnolia tree

This Martin Luther King quote on persistence, which was originally said in 1967, highlights a “never give up, never surrender” attitude. While Martin Luther King’s legacy against racism allowed us to make great progress, the fight against racism seems never-ending. It seems to take true perseverance to keep your fighting spirit up.

When your fighting spirit seems down, a gaze upon a Magnolia tree can quickly replenish it to tip-top form. A symbol of strength, perseverance, and dignity, the Magnolia tree is constantly planted or gifted to evoke these qualities. In fact, the White House also has one itself, standing at the South Portico and growing ever stronger still.

7. “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”

a blossoming cherry tree
The Cherry tree

Said only two months before he was assassinated, this Martin Luther King quote on hope is a stark reminder of having faith in the future. While perseverance means you must keep fighting, not knowing what you are fighting for can only lead to exhaustion.

The fight against racism is long and bitter, with visible results sometimes just being too far out of reach. That’s why the hope for a better tomorrow can serve as your true north. It means having faith in a brighter future of equality. This is what this Martin Luther King quote about hope encourages us to strive for.

For a new beginning and revival, you should plant a Cherry tree. The Cherry tree has a very special status in Japan. It is associated by many with having special meanings toward compassion and strong expression by Native Americans.

Martin Luther King’s Day
Martin Luther King’s farewell to his supporters

Martin Luther King Day is the day for us to look back at history, to be proud of our achievements in the fight against racism, as well as to remember the man who will not stop fighting for the future of equality we all still hope and strive for.

Not everyone celebrates Martin Luther King’s Day by tree planting, though. If you are busy with other commitments today, donate towards planting more trees today via the sustainable shopping coupon Tenere. With every purchase you make, a small donation is automatically put aside to plant more trees where they are needed.

Or you can simply use its large coupon database to look for affordable saplings of the aforementioned trees. Any way you choose, you are still doing good for the world. Embrace and commemorate his spirit with new saplings during this year’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day!


Valeria specializes in environmental writing, focusing on trees, sustainability, and ecological issues. Although she doesn't have formal environmental science education, her self-taught expertise and deep connection to nature define her work. At Tenereteam, she combines her passion for the environment with engaging storytelling, offering insights on forest ecosystems and sustainable living. In her free time, Valeria is actively involved in nature, which enriches her authentic and inspiring writing style.

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