Arborist talks trees with deep historical roots in Tennessee

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Battle of Nashville Monument Park

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – You can find trees filled with deep roots of history throughout the entire state of Tennessee.

News 2’s Alex Corradetti spoke with Randy Allen, arborist and owner of White House Arboretum about some of the oldest trees in the state.

Allen found his passion for trees when he was just five-years-old.

“Believe it or not, about 60 years ago I began examining trees and trying to start understanding trees. I didn’t start planting trees until I was about eleven, and that is when I began my first arboretum in Nashville. I just read every book I could find in the library and wandered the forest of Tennessee for many years, and Southern Kentucky, also around Kentucky Lake,” Allen said.

Allen got his certified arborist certificate in 2010.

“I didn’t have to study for it or anything because I had studied for it my whole life – studied trees.” Allen added, “It makes you more of a believable arborist if you trim trees or give advice about trees.”

Allen said it’s a joy to run his own arboretum.

“Young children have things to do here, and senior citizens love it too. This is White House Arboretum,” said Allen.

Allen said this career has brought a sense of peace into other aspects of his life.

“It’s a lot of ascetics you come home, and you’ve got this oasis, this Eden. It just calms your whole stress and attitude,” said Allen.

Allen is fascinated by trees that are hundreds of years old.

“I’ve studied the rings from about 40 species or so since I was a child. I used to line my room with cross sections from trees. All these years, fifty something years of studying those cross sections, I’ve gotten pretty good at estimating ages of trees. People call me from all around Middle Tennessee to tell them about their tree and tell them how old it is and measure it,” Allen said.

Allen said no matter where you are in Tennessee, you are likely within 20 miles of a tree that is 200-years-old, “Also, no matter where you’re at, you are within 40 miles of a 300-year-old tree. There’s a few trees in Tennessee that are 400-years-old and up. There’s big trees everywhere. You don’t have to go very far.”

Allen said one of the biggest and oldest trees is the bald cypress.

“It’s in the redwood family. They can get really big. They are believed to get to 1,000 years of age. A few in Florida. And there was one called the ‘Tennessee Titan’ back in the 40’s, up until it died in the 80’s,” recalled Allen.

There is a special tree at the Battle of Nashville Monument Park. “It’s a chinquapin oak, and it could be from 200-300-years-old,” Allen added it is one of the most impressive trees in Nashville.

The Tennessee Urban Forestry Council and Nashville Tree Foundation have websites and books dedicated to that tree.

Allen said white oak is one of the most common trees in Middle Tennessee, but another type of tree always seems to capture his attention most.

“Bur oak is my favorite. Bur oak has resurrection fern. If you find one that is more than 200-years-old, it will be clothed with a fern. It’s beautiful you must see it,” said Allen.

Allen said although his love for trees is indescribable, it’s not the most important thing to him.

“I love trees, but really the most important thing to me is the forest. A single tree is great and wonderful, but the forest is being eliminated fast. The old growth forest, the climax forest, which contains the richest species,” said Allen.

  • White Oak Tree
  • White Oak Tree
  • Bur oak tree
  • Bur oak
  • Black tupelo
  • Cherrybark oak

Allen hopes the people of Tennessee will spend some time enjoying nature this National Arbor Day.

“It’s just amazing! If you really open your eyes everywhere you go, there’s a big tree. Send me a picture, and I’ll tell you what it is,” Allen promised.

There is a website Allen contributed photos to of some of the most well-known and oldest trees in Tennessee. If you’d like to see those photos or learn more about the trees recognized click here.

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