Nashville’s Tree Canopy Threatened By Development, So Metro Hands Out Seedlings | Nashville Public Radio

Nashville’s Tree Canopy Threatened By Development, So Metro Hands Out Seedlings

Mar 11, 2016

There’s evidence of one consequence of Nashville’s building boom: the city’s trees are under threat. So while celebrating Arbor Day on Thursday, Metro handed out dozens of oak, Eastern Redbud, and Sargent Crabapple seedlings.

The assembled crowd sang the praises of Nashville’s trees. Elementary school essay contestant Alex Wang extolled the abilities of trees to, “clean the soil, produce oxygen, remove carbon dioxide, and give animals shelter and refuge.”

Metro Public Works Horticulturist Jennifer Smith pointed to benefits “for air quality, stormwater management … (and) property value of your home."

“And, of course,” Smith added, “they’re beautiful.”

But for all the attributes of trees, research shows Nashville’s tree canopy is thin compared to many cities. And what is there has been under threat by development, especially from new housing, Smith said.

Metro measured its tree canopy in 2010.

“We have tree ordinances for our businesses. But at the end of the day, it’s up to the individual homeowner — the landowner — to do the planting, to keep that tree canopy going over the years,” she said.

More: Metro's tree canopy website

Smith said the Metro government owns just 5 percent of Davidson County land — so the city planting more trees isn’t good enough.

“We can plant all day in the parks and right-of-ways and still not make a huge dent in the percent of tree canopy that we have,” Smith said.

By giving away seedlings — and growing instructions — Metro hopes future generations will see more trees like the iconic redbud, which is native to Tennessee, and just now beginning to bloom.

Nominate A Tree

Also at the celebration, Mayor Megan Barry announced a new "Historic and Specimen Tree" program, in which Nashvillians can nominate a tree to receive deed-restriction status.

This designation preserves the tree and protects it from being removed unless it is a hazard or it is determined to be not economically feasible to develop a parcel without removing it. Trees must meet one of the following criteria:

• exceptional size and age.

• commonly recognized as an established and familiar feature of the community, or confirmed as a significant part of the community’s heritage.

• planted by, or as a memorial to, or associated with, a nationally, regionally, or state-recognized individual, group, event, or cause, and is at least 50 years old.

The Metro Advisory Tree Committee will review applications. More information is available at

The Eastern Redbud trees in Centennial Park will be in full bloom in late March.
Credit Tony Gonzalez / WPLN