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Branching Out

Message from the President

Neil Letson

I was fortunate in my career to have worked when urban forestry was really taking root across the nation, especially the South. National and state support was at an all-time high. Researchers were starting to understand how essential trees are in our communities. And we were beginning to learn how trees are put together and really work. This understanding alone completely transformed arboriculture and the way we care for trees today. Unfortunately, I still had to learn about what to do with this information. It took an arborist in Huntsville Alabama to teach me. He and I were talking at a state urban forestry conference. At one point I told him something to the effect, “Tree topping is rampant all across our state. Arborists need to do a better job of trimming trees the right way.” Mistake. He looked at me and said, “Letson, the reason trees are topped is because people demand it. The reason they demand it is because they don’t know better. The reason they don’t know better is because you haven’t told them!” Education. He was telling me that I might know something about tree care but I wasn’t doing enough to share it with other people. He was right. We can criticize people who make tree care mistakes, but where does that get us? I knew then I had to do more as an educator and not a criticizer. I’ve tried to apply that philosophy since. That’s why I believe education is the main purpose of the Tennessee Urban Forestry Council and its programs. So, whether you are a tree care professional, tree board member, or citizen activist, I challenge you to join the Tennessee Urban Forestry Council to help educate our fellow citizens about why trees are important in our communities and what we can do to help them thrive.

2020 Tennessee Urban Forestry Council (TUFC) Conference Date

The date of the TUFC Conference is October 15-16, 2020. It will be held at the Montgomery Bell State Park. More details coming.

Arbor Day

March 6 is officially Arbor Day in Tennessee. Be sure to support your community’s celebration. Plant trees!

Neil Letson

Program Spotlight:


Introduction to Citizen Urban Forestry Workshop

September 13th from 1:00-5:00 the workshop was offered in Nashville at our Middle Tennessee Center of Excellence, Cheekwood Estate & Gardens.  The class covered the importance of trees, tree identification, tree installation, EAB and tree pruning.

CUF Workshop 2018

 CUF Workshop 2018

In 2019 we will be offering an advanced course for those that would like to learn key tree features to help them identify trees in the winter.  If you would be interested in this class, please fill out the survey to help us determine a day and time that would work for you.

Winter Tree Identification Survey

We also plan to offer a series of classes (once a week) in the Fall of 2019 that will be similar to the Master Gardner’s certification program but all on trees!  Be on the lookout for more information!

 New Arboreta in East & Middle,

Recertified in Middle & West TN!

Katie Killebrew

This is current board member & past President Katie Killebrew, Clarksville City Forester @ Liberty Park our most recent new level 1 arboretum!

Dianna Davies

And Dianna Davies w Fort Wood arboretum also one of our newest level one arboretum entries last November.

We’d like to congratulate both arboretum’s for their hard work and attention to detail and superb excellence!

New Level 1 – Jacob’s Nature Park, Johnson City

Jacob's Nature Park Arboretum

New Level 1 – Belle Forest Cave Property, Nashville

Belle Forest Arboretum

New Level 1 – Cane Creek Park, Cookeville

Cane Creek Arboretum

New Level 1 – City Lake Natural Area,  Cookeville

City Lake Natural Area Arboretum

Recertified Level 4 – Memphis Botanic Garden, Memphis

Memphis Botanic Garden Arboretum

Recertified Level 1 – Ridgetop Station Park, Ridgetop

Ridgetop Station Park Arboretum

Recertified Level 1 – The Arboretum at Southwind, Memphis

Southwind Arboretum

Learn more about these arboreta and make plans to visit one soon!  Click Here

Tennessee Urban Forestry Launches New Tennessee Champion Tree Program!

In 2016, a team of students and faculty at the University of Tennessee contracted with the TN Division of Forestry to re-inventory the state’s champion trees. Revitalizing a program that began in the early 1970’s. Now the torch has been passed to the Tennessee Urban Forestry Council. CLICK HERE to view program details and the updated list of Tennessee’s largest trees!

Amazing New Volunteer Log

Reward Volunteers

Log your time today on our Connections page.

Join our Board of Directors

The Tennessee Urban Forestry Council (TUFC) is deeply rooted in promoting healthy and sustainable urban and community forests which contribute to clean air and water, economic stability, and beautiful green places in which all Tennesseans and future generations will love, work and play. To continue to promote these efforts the TUFC is accepting board nominations year round. If you are interested in serving on the Board of Directors, please let us know. All board members are required to choose a committee to serve on. Committee assignments are detailed below. Self-nominations are welcomed.

 New Tree Sanctuary in Arlington, TN!

Wilson Tree Sanctuary

See more pictures of the Wilson’s property and other Tree Sanctuaries throughout Tennessee HERE

”Nature does nothing uselessly.”


Volunteer Spotlight

The Memphis Botanic Garden’s Tree Team is a group of 5 volunteers that trudge over our 96 acres to maintain the Level 4 Arboretum and Conifer Reference Garden. They also help with outreach projects for our Center of Excellence responsibilities. It consists of (in order of joining) Polly Baxter, Jan Castillo, Sean Pflaumer, Deb Foehring and Linnea West. It began with a statement from a volunteer about 14 years ago when we were discussing the Arboretum program overseen by TUFC. “We could do that” became a several year project as we ‘went for the gold’ and catalogued and mapped 188 trees.  Volunteers have come and gone (as have some of the trees) but we continue to have about the same number of trees on our recertification list. The tree team loves a field trip, and one of their favorite activities is helping local agencies (schools, parks, cemeteries) become Certified Arboretums. There have been many animated discussions when trying to define exactly which oak or hickory might be added to a list. Their current project is collecting way points on all of the ‘certified’ trees so our map will be more accurate. They have also developed a spread sheet of information on each of the trees with the soon to be realized dream of making this information available to visitors through smart phones while walking out on our grounds. Now, if we could just clone them and assign a group to the shrubs, vines, perennials…

Laurie Williams, Memphis Botanic Garden

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