The Tennessee Urban Forestry Council (TUFC) has awarded First Presbyterian Church Level 1 Arboretum status.  This is recognition of the church having 180 trees representing 46 different species of trees on our grounds with each species identified.  

Click here for FPC's tree inventory and scroll down for more information.


Williamson Herald: "Franklin church’s arboretum earns rare distinction, beckons visitors"

Williamson Home Page GARDEN SPOTS: "From seedlings to giant oaks, First Presbyterian Church campus is a certified arboretum"

The process of diversifying the tree species on our grounds started in 2009 with installation of the first Memorial Trees.  

The task has been challenging as our grounds were strip mined for phosphorus several decades ago and our soil conditions are poor. The task of finding a match between suitable soils and tree species requires considerable time and effort. In addition to planting, the application for Certified Arboretum status was a significant task. It is important to recognize Dylan Raines' months of work in preparing the TUFC application for his Eagle Scout project. Each species had to be identified and properly labeled. Dylan raised considerable funds to pay the cost of labels and mulch. He organized a Scout workday bringing a large number of Boy Scouts to the church to mulch and prepare our grounds for the TUFC inspection. Seeing a large number of Scouts working (and enjoying themselves) on our church grounds in their support of Dylan's Eagle Project was a thrill in itself. 


Our property totals 13 acres. With the exception of the parking lot, immediate grounds enclosed by the paved areas, the Pavilion, labyrinth, Boy Scout structure, the outdoor classroom/pond; our remaining surface area is rarely used.  We hope the Certified Arboretum status will increase interest in our property and encourage utilization for educational and recreational purposes. 

In most areas our soil is dry, dense clay with little topsoil.  These conditions contribute to a long-term problem with water runoff. The surface area of a medium size tree can store 100 gallons of water in a single 1 or 2 inch rainfall. With 180 trees on our grounds, many being small, we may be diverting more than 10,000 gallons of water during a single rainfall through tree surface absorption. The soil beneath a tree is more porous than surrounding soils. Studies show a medium size tree can prevent approximately 2,500 gallons of water runoff annually. A large mature tree with with a full canopy and widely distributed root system may prevent much more. As our canopy matures, the reduction in water runoff will be material. 

It is only appropriate to add Meryl Godwin's Rain Garden constructed for her Girl Scout Gold Award project in 2019 may prevent 10,000 gallons (or more ) of water runoff per year. Meryl's project is diverting water runoff from paved surface area. Meryl's project, which uses native flowers for water absorption, received a national award.

There has been a transition in tree species on our grounds since the church was completed in 1994. The original planting included a number of invasive Bradford Pear and Austrian Black Pine. In addition, our shrubbery planting included the  species the State of Tennessee is asking the public to remove. These tree and shrubbery species were fast growing but the soft wood is short lived. These invasive species do not support beneficial insect or bird life.  

We are particularly interested in tree and shrub species noted for feeding birds. Our native Oak species host 557 different species of insects a bird can eat or feed their nestlings. The Black Cherry hosts 456 species. The River Birch hosts 411. Maple 297. Hickories 235 and American Elm 215  Tulip Popular 31. By comparison, the non-native Bradford Pear hosts only 3 species. The Ginko, which has been in America for over 300 years, will host 4. The abundant Zilkova and Crepe Myrtle on our grounds will not host a single American insect. The non-native tree species leaves are toxic to the creatures our native birds need in order to feed their nestlings and survive. This native versus non-native disparity is consistent with flowers, shrubs, and trees.

A critical component to the bird feeding effort is the presence of blooming native flowers and shrubs on our grounds. The shrubs and flowers attract the pollinators, who lay eggs in the leaves to grow the caterpillars and insects to feed the birds. The tall grass area in the rear of the church property contains approximately 15 species of blooming plants. Blooming shrubs have been placed in other areas. The combination of ground cover, blooming plants, and tree canopy can feed thousands of birds through the different seasons. Today you can see bird nests on our property.


The trees we have added since 2009 are primarily Tennessee native species suitable to the geophysical and climate characteristics of the Central Basin of Middle Tennessee. Our Central Basin soil types, soil conditions, temperature, and rainfall parameters are unique. The Memorial Tree idea started in 2009. Within the last few years some members have added shrubs instead of trees. At the present, we could use more blooming shrubs and smaller under-story trees. This is an opportunity to add low-maintenance plantings and produce a profusion of color on our grounds from late winter/early spring into summer. 

The Arboretum status is the result of many people supporting an idea over 11 years. Several individuals asked to plant a species few people have heard about. A Chestnut Oak is a slow-growing, dense wood that can live for centuries. The Blackjack Oak is an uncommon tree that thrives in poor soil conditions - and we have plenty. The Princeton Elm is an American species that survived the Dutch Elm blight. 

Trees are planted with a vision toward the future. Many of the trees we have placed on are expected to live 150 to 250 years; other species may live longer. We are aware of an American White Oak estimated to be over 800 years old. Fred Williams and David Bell both planted a White Oak on our property. Future generations will see how long they live.