Drainage for Your Landscaping

A significant investment of time, energy, and money goes into making a landscape a beautiful, relaxing oasis.  It takes careful planning and, sometimes, considerable collaboration with a landscape designer to create the environment envisioned as the completed project.  Careful planning is also advised when considering drainage for your landscaping.  Be it from natural rainfall or an irrigation system, water that fails to drain can ruin your landscape.  Before you pursue creating your dream landscape, take some time to consider some information regarding drainage.

Without appropriate drainage, water can easily pool around any trees or other plants you plant.  Unless resolved quickly, the result may be death of the tree or plant.  This is because the pooled water acts as a barrier, which prevents absorption of the oxygen necessary for conversion to carbon dioxide.  For a tree, root rot is affirmation that damage has occurred due to improper drainage.  Like trees, the death of other plants, such as shrubs or flowers, will result if proper drainage is not managed.

Water that pools because of improper drainage may stagnate and become a breeding ground for mosquitoes.  The presence of these pesky insects can quickly turn what’s meant to be a relaxing environment into a place of unrelenting discomfort and agitation, especially during the warmer months.

The natural lay of the property can be an ally in the pursuit of proper drainage.   One factor that may help with drainage is to plant trees on the more naturally sloped areas that may exist.  When water is applied, the tree receives the nourishment it needs to facilitate growth, but the slope on which it’s planted facilitates an organic runoff.  Quite simply, other than the planning and the planting, nothing else is required of the property owner.

For land that may not have any natural elevations, consider using mulch to create a berm around the base of the tree.  As with a slope, a tree is able to take in the water needed for its growth, but the berm helps to shed excessive water, therefore preventing accumulation at the base.  If there are no natural elevations on the property, consider consulting an Austin tree trimming specialist.  An experienced specialist can assist with grading to develop the slopes required for effective drainage.

Drainage may be cleverly disguised through the creation of a water garden.  With the addition of river rocks, a beautiful garden statue or bird bath, complementary flowers or shrubs, or any number of lighting options, the runoff of excessive water manifested as a water garden could easily take the appearance of an intentional design.

Taking a thoughtful, proactive approach in the designing of your landscape can prevent damage to your investment in the long-run if drainage, as well as how to accomplish it, is assessed.  Consult a professional to assist you with your concerns, and seek their expertise.  If proper drainage is not accomplished initially and a tree later exhibits signs of damage, root rot may be an issue.  An Austin tree removal professional can help you determine if the tree will need to be removed.

About the Author: Andrew Johnson is the owner of Central Texas Tree Care, a leading provider of Austin tree services in Central Texas. Certified ISA Austin arborist services including: tree trimming, tree removal, tree care and stump removal. For more information on Austin tree service please visit

Oak Trees and Galls

There are many types of oak trees that are native to Texas and all of America, and there are many diseases that are specific to and affect oak trees.  Galls are one such form of disease that affects oaks.  However, before you think of worst-case scenarios regarding your oak trees, there are some interesting facts pertaining to galls that you should know.  Let‘s examine them here.

First, what is a gall?  A gall is a growth which can be found on several parts of trees, including the leaves, twigs, flowers, and roots.  This growth is produced when certain species of insects deposit their eggs into any of these parts of the tree.  (Galls may also be produced by fungi or bacteria).  Commonly known insects who do this include wasps, mites, and flies.  The galls are formed as a result of a chemical reaction between the larvae and the tree, and their onset is most commonly seen during the spring when budding begins.  Once the gall is formed, the larvae feed on the tissue contained within it until they are fully developed and emerge as adults.

It is difficult to say how to treat galls, as they can be produced by several variety of organisms.  Since they are well-hidden within the confines of the gall, identifying the organism residing therein is equally as difficult.  Some research indicates that preventative spraying may help.  However, the insects responsible for the galls may vary from year to year.  This can make knowing which chemical repellent to use equally as difficult. 

Another interesting and rather puzzling fact regarding galls is that although they are technically categorized as a tree disease, affected trees are generally unscathed by them.  In other words, the presence of galls will not typically kill a tree.  In fact, the presence of galls hardly warrants any efforts to control at all.  Perhaps the most common repercussion of galls is that a large number of them on a particularly weak anatomical location, such as a leaf or a small twig, may cause it to fall from the tree.  Often, it is the loss of leaves at an unconventional time that is one’s first indication a tree may be “sick.”  To reiterate, the onset of galls is typically during spring, and seasonal shedding of leaves is not common until autumn.  Once one takes notice of the falling leaves and investigates further, the galls, which typically appear on the underside of the leaves, are discovered.

Galls can be removed by hand.  They are also often easily removed by the elements, such as wind and rain, after the bulk of it is removed as a result of the larvae’s feeding and certainly after the organism emerges as an adult.  If the galls are particularly unsightly to you, consider contacting an Austin tree trimming specialist, who may be able to assist you aesthetically. 

Galls that are brown in color, hollowed, and dried out are so from providing nourishment to its inhabiting organism.  Once the adult has emerged, galls will contain small holes through which the adult insect emerged.  These are signs that the gestational cycle involving the gall is complete.

If you have a tree that you believe is affected by galls, but aren’t quite certain, contact an Austin tree removal professional.  If your tree is affected by galls, chances are any damage will be minimal.  However, if your tree is affected by something else, it is best to have a professional diagnose the disease as quickly as possible so corrective measures can be taken and your investment can be preserved. 

About the Author: Andrew Johnson is the owner of Central Texas Tree Care, a leading provider of Austin tree services in Central Texas. Certified ISA Austin arborist services including: tree trimming, tree removal, tree care and stump removal. For more information on Austin tree service please visit

Landscaping Trees and Root Rot

A beautiful, well-maintained landscape adds value to a home or business. Creating a landscape as such is quite an investment, requiring considerable time, energy, and money for establishment and maintenance. In order to maintain this investment, it’s important to become aware of the signs of problems with landscaping trees. Recognizing signs of tree diseases can prompt much needed interventions, which may reverse or cure the tree’s ill. This article will examine one such tree disease–root rot.

Essentially, root rot is as it sounds. The root of a tree begins to rot. Root rot is an effect. So what, then, is the cause? Root rot may be caused by two issues, both a direct result of overwatering. One possible issue due to overwatering is an overall lack of oxygen, without which a tree cannot survive. Another possible issue resulting from overwatering occurs when a previously dormant fungus in the soil is activated and attacks the root. The fungus will eventually cause root rot and likely kill the tree.

If trees inexplicably exhibit wilted or discolored leaves, begin to lose leaves, especially external to autumn, or have an overall poor or unhealthy appearance, then there may be an onset of root rot. Increased chances for this may exist if these signs became present following an incident, or repeated incidents, of overwatering. Overwatering may be the result of an intentional effort to sustain the tree by a homeowner or business owner or may be the result of poor drainage by natural waterfall, such as rain. Whichever the case, damage may be done.

It’s also possible that root rot may impact trees whose roots have been damaged by mower blades or have otherwise been nicked in such a way that roots can be directly and negatively affected.

If conks are present on a tree, then root rot is also present. Conks are shelf-like fungi that grow as a result of and flourish when there are rotting or decaying roots. The presence of conks is also a reasonable measure by which root rot damage may be estimated. For instance, the more conks there are, the more sizeable they are, and the more tree circumference enveloped by them, the more severe the root decay.

If the root system or bark of the lower part of the tree trunk is dark-colored, easily removed, or friable, root rot is likely. This may be the most obvious sign of a problem with root rot. However, if you are still uncertain, contact an Austin tree trimming
specialist, who can provide expert guidance about the health of your landscaping trees.

Because prevention of root rot is the best way to maintain healthy landscaping trees, it is quite important to recognize the signs of it. However, if you have a tree that you believe is indeed suffering from root rot, you can contact Austin tree removal specialist, who can assist you with determining the best course of action, especially valuable information and assistance if removal of the tree is the best or only option. They can advise regarding chemical treatment of the soil. An Austin arborist can also effectively speak to measures you can take to avoid wounding the roots of a tree in order to prevent vulnerability. If you decide for aesthetical reasons to replant in the same vicinity as a previously affected tree, be certain to contact an Austin stump removal specialist. It is imperative that all of the stump and roots from a previously affected tree are properly removed to lessen the chances that a new landscaping tree will suffer the same fate.

About the Author: Andrew Johnson is the owner of Central Texas Tree Care, a leading provider of Austin tree services in Central Texas. Certified ISA Austin arborist services including: tree trimming, tree removal, tree care and stump removal. For more information on Austin tree service please visit

Ideal Times to Trim a Tree

Since landscaping trees are an investment and can add value to your property, keeping them viable is very important. If you are considering trimming your trees as a way to maintain that viability, there are some things to consider beforehand. For instance, you should consider that there are ideal times to trim a tree. This article will examine some of those ideal times.

If branches are low-hanging, they can be a risk to life or property. Pedestrians, joggers, or cyclists may inadvertently run into branches. Low-hanging branches may clog gutters or interfere with other sources of drainage. Even as a part of a large tree, a low-hanging branch may compromise rooftops, fences, or vehicles below.

Depending upon location, low-hanging branches may also affect a neighbor’s property. Unfortunately, the chances for low-hanging branches to become threats to life or property increase during inclement weather. The weight of snow or ice, heavy winds, or lightning can cause low-hanging branches to become quite dangerous. This can leave the property owner legally and financially responsible for any damages. If you find yourself in such a situation, consider trimming any problematic trees on your property as quickly as possible.

Deciduous trees are those that lose foliage at the end of the growing season. If you have any deciduous trees needing to be trimmed that are not an imminent threat to life or property and time will allow, consider trimming them during the winter months. This is because trees become dormant during cold weather. When a tree is trimmed at this time, chances are lessened that springtime budding will be negatively affected. Maintaining your landscaping trees by trimming them does not have to cost you your beautiful springtime blooms.

Another reason to consider trimming a tree is for better manageability. Sometimes the natural growth of a tree can cause branches to overhang one another. Ultimately, this can lessen the tree’s chances for survival. If overhang is a problem, this is another ideal time for a tree to be trimmed. However, it is best to do so when the tree is young and the overhang affects branches which are relatively new and small. Consult an Austin tree trimming specialist for any inquiries you may have or to secure professional trimming services for your property.

Finally, you can safely trim a tree anytime the branches are dead. In fact, doing so lessens the risk of disease, termites, or other stressors which could impact the overall health of the part of the tree which remains viable. If, at any point, however, other parts of the tree become unhealthy or die, you can contact an Austin tree removal specialist, who can advise you whether or not the tree can be saved and can assist you with its removal if it cannot.

Taking these scenarios into consideration can assist you with your tree trimming projects. However, if you need further assistance with any questions you may have or any actions you may wish to take, contact a qualified arborist for support.

About the Author: Andrew Johnson is the owner of Central Texas Tree Care, a leading provider of Austin tree services in Central Texas. Certified ISA Austin arborist services including: tree trimming, tree removal, tree care and stump removal. For more information on Austin tree service please visit

Options for Stump Removal

As valuable as landscaping trees may be to a home, there are reasons why some homeowners may choose to have a tree removed. Perhaps the tree is an impending danger to property or power lines. Perhaps it is in a spot where a home addition, storage building, or garden is to go. Perhaps the tree is dead or dying from the effects of inclement weather. If you have ever had a tree removed, whether intentionally or not, an unsightly stump may remain. If this is the case, there are several options for stump removal to consider.

Perhaps the most natural option for stump removal is to cover it with soil. This produces a natural decay (rot). It is a completely organic, environmentally friendly way to break down the stump. The potential drawback, however, is the length of time it takes for the process to take place. This can be reasonably estimated by the size of the stump to be removed. Typically, the larger the stump is, the longer it will take for it to decay naturally.

If waiting for a natural, organic decay is not an option due to any time constraints a homeowner may be facing, another possibility for stump removal is to use a commercial chemical to assist with the breakdown in a more expedient timeframe. Consistent applications according to the directions on the product can accelerate the breakdown process. Once the stump is soft enough, many attempt to remove it by burning it. However, there are several other considerations to bear in mind with this method.

First, even using a chemical in an attempt to accelerate the decay process, followed by a burn, may still take more time than the homeowner desires. Second, there are legalities to consider before burning a stump, such as acquiring a permit to burn and any “no burn” injunctions municipalities may enforce. Finally, there are safety concerns to consider. Would a burn somehow become uncontrolled? Is it near your home or that of a neighbor’s? Is it near other personal property, such as outbuildings, equipment, orlivestock? Is it near brush that could catch fire and spread easily? As this method certainly involves a certain degree of risk, it should not be approached with a flippant attitude.

The quickest method for having a tree stump removed is stump grinding. There is generally more expense involved with this method, but the equipment used by professionals is much more efficient than the other options discussed here. Consult an Austin tree trimming professional for more information regarding procedures and overall cost. Depending upon the size of the stump, in very little time at all, the stump can be completely removed. Of course, stump removal through grinding may be done for aesthetic purposes, but there is also some practicality to it. If a stump is removed by grinding below grade level, then new grass can grow and mower blades are less compromised. There is also a decreased risk for termites when a stump is removed.

When it comes to stump removal, these are some possibilities to consider. However, consulting an Austin tree removal specialist is a great idea before any action is taken. Solicit their expertise to become more well-informed about how to proceed. The information and intervention you receive may make the process less worrisome and time-consuming, especially when time constraints are an issue.

About the Author: Andrew Johnson is the owner of Central Texas Tree Care, a leading provider of Austin tree services in Central Texas. Certified ISA Austin arborist services including: tree trimming, tree removal, tree care and stump removal. For more information on Austin tree service please visit

Recognizing Disease in Your Landscaping Trees

Many homeowners place as much value in the outward appearance of their home as they do the inward appearance. For this reason, landscaping is quite important to most homeowners. Each year, much time, effort, and money are invested in the upkeep of residential landscaping. To protect that crucial investment, it is to the homeowner’s advantage to educate himself or herself about continued, proper care of their landscape. Learning to recognize signs of disease in landscaping trees is an important first step in the education of proper care. Any previously unnoted abnormality may be the first sign that a tree is diseased. You should consider the following information to make a determination.

First, it is important to know the species of the tree in question. Because some diseases are specific to only certain plants, this is a crucial means by which to rule out, as well as rule in, what the possibilities may be. If you do not know the species or cannot identify it by conducting online research or using book and picture references, consult an arborist for reliable assistance.

Next, you should compare the tree to other trees in the immediate, surrounding area and, especially, trees of the same species. Are other trees experiencing any of the same signs? If so, are those trees the same species? Are they different species? Consider, also, if there have been any commonalities between the trees. Were they recently exposed to some manner of pesticide (for example, municipal mosquito spraying)? Could their roots have been wounded by municipal mowing of road shoulders? Are there drainage issues at or near the location of any questionable trees? Conversely, are there any drought-like conditions at or near the location? Is there any nearby construction that could be affecting the root system?

Follow up by examining the overall appearance of the tree. Note the color of the trunk. Is it lighter in color and brittle? This could indicate insufficient water to facilitate viability. Is the trunk dark or black and moist and perhaps easily removed? This could indicate too much water or root rot. Is the tree affected at the top or bottom? Only on one side? Or, is the entire tree affected? Are the leaves wilted or curled in on themselves? This information can help to determine if, or further confirm that, the tree is diseased and what the cause of the disease may be.

Because landscaping is such an important investment, once you’ve gathered this information, it’s most advantageous to contact a professional Austin arborist or Austin tree trimming specialist, who can assist you with making the correct diagnosis for your affected tree, as well as determining the best course of action to restore its health. If necessary, call a professional for Austin tree removal or Austin stump removal so that disease doesn’t spread. With the proper diagnosis and treatment, it’s quite possible that your landscaping trees can be salvaged and continue to be an asset, contributing to the overall value of your home. However, if there is no treatment available to restore the tree to full health, consult an Austin tree removal specialist for safe, and professional removal of the tree.

About the Author: Andrew Johnson is the owner of Central Texas Tree Care, a leading provider of Austin tree services in Central Texas. Certified ISA Austin arborist services including: tree trimming, tree removal, tree care and stump removal. For more information on Austin tree service please visit

When Do I Trim My Trees?

Trimming your trees has many advantages and it should be considered for all of the trees that you own. Tree trimming is an important, yet often overlooked, step in the tree growing process. By trimming your trees early on, you can control the shape of the crown. When you trim your trees properly, you avoid many common problems that many people experience with their trees. Disease, damage to the tree, damage to your property, and broken branches can all be avoided by trimming at the right time.

Tree trimming can make your trees aesthetically pleasing to look at, but it can also keep your trees healthy. Trimming promotes the growth of foliage, fruit and flowers. Plus, trimming keeps the branches from getting too long and fragile, so they can actually support the weight of the new growth. This helps you to avoid limb breakage, which opens up your tree to diseases.

You should trim your trees at specific times of the year. The timing is dependent on the type of tree that you own. You may want to contact a local professional tree trimmer or arborist to assess the best times to trim your trees. Some trees do best if they are trimmed in the spring or summer. Doing this can promote rapid growth and help your young trees develop to their full potential. Other trees do best if they are trimmed in the winter while they are in dormancy. However, trimming certain trees in cold weather could actually kill them.

A certified arborist will know exactly which limbs to trim and how to promote a balanced density throughout your tree. Starting early and working with a professional from the time that your trees are young can give you control over whether the trees end up narrow and tall or wide and short. How the limbs are cut influences the direction that they will grow. This can be very useful, especially if your trees could grow too close to your home, power lines, the street, or off of your property. Controlling the shape and the growth rate can also help you to create shade where you need it and balance with your other landscaping.

If you have broken, damaged, diseased or “out of control” trees on your property that you would like removed, please call an Austin tree removal service that is run by certified arborist. A professional will try everything to save a tree before removing it. Austin tree care professionals are not just workers that went out and purchased some equipment. They are highly trained in pest management, disease control, tree trimming, and much more. You can also call a professional for Austin stump removal or Austin tree trunk removal to prevent pests, like termites and roaches, from infesting your property. Be sure that you get real, honest advice when looking for Austin tree trimming services by calling a professional arborist for all of your Austin tree trimming or Austin tree removal needs.

About the Author: Andrew Johnson is the owner of Central Texas Tree Care, a leading provider of Austin tree services in Central Texas. Certified ISA Austin arborist services including: tree trimming, tree removal, tree care and stump removal. For more information on Austin tree service please visit

Planting Trees for Shade

Summer is always a reminder of how sweet shade can be. If you are looking to do a little landscaping around your home or business, you may be considering natural forms of shade, such as that provided by trees. So what type of trees should you plant for shade?

There are many types of trees to choose from as almost all trees provide some type of shade. The type of tree you choose could depend largely on where you live, what your climate is like and what temperature zone you are in.

For the very low desert, there are a handful of trees that provide great shade without requiring too much water. These trees include the Chinese Elm, Desert Willow, Mesquite, Texas Mountain-Laurel, Texas Redbud, or Coral Gum. These trees are natural desert growing trees, which make them less susceptible to drought conditions and the heat.

If you live in a higher desert climate there is the blooming silk tree or Mimosa Pudica. One can also choose any trees from the Ash or Fraxinus family. Both of these trees are known for their color with the Ash being even more brilliant during the fall. The Ash also requires little water and has few bug and disease problems.

Living in a climate with plenty of rain, you may want a fast growing shade tree. Such trees include:

1. Sawtooth Oak – The Sawtooth Oak (Quercus acutissima) is an oak originally native to eastern Asia, in China, Korea and Japan. It is closely related to the Turkey Oak. It is characterized by shoot buds surrounded by soft bristles, bristle-tipped leaf lobes, and acorns that mature in about 18 months

The Sawtooth Oak has a beautiful spreading canopy and wonderful late fall foliage that begins as a yellow and then graduates into a golden brown. This tree at maturity can grow as tall as 40 to 50 feet. The Sawtooth likes full sun and is typically grown in zones 5-9.

2. Autumn Blaze Maples – This tree is a combination of the silver maple (Acer saccharinum) and the red maple (Acer rubrum). Its scientific name is Acer freemanii. The tree‘s patented name is Autumn Blaze due to its bright red-orange fall canopy. This tree has become the most sought after tree in the U.S. due to its color and vigor. The growth rate on this tree is 2-4 times faster than rubrum maples. Like many trees, it really comes into its own in the fall.

3. River Birches -Betula nigra (River Birch; also occasionally called Water Birch) is a species of birch native to the eastern United States from New Hampshire west to southern Minnesota, and south to northern Florida and east Texas. It is commonly found in flood plains and/or swamps. This tree grows up to 80 feet in height and on occasion up to 100 feet. These trees are fast growing and have a wonderful yellow foliage in autumn and a year-round beautiful bark. These trees love full-sun and will tolerate partial shade. While its native habitat is wet ground, it will grow on higher land, and its bark is quite distinctive, making it a favored ornamental tree for landscape use.

4. Leyland Cypress Trees – Cupressocyparis leylandii (syn. Callitropsis × leylandii), often referred to as just Leylandii, is a fast-growing evergreen tree much used in horticulture, primarily for hedges and screens. These trees have are known for their rapid and thick growth which means they are sometimes used to enforce privacy, but such use can result in disputes with neighbors whose own property becomes overshadowed.

With these trees, each individual tree is slender, so they are typically planted in a row. Leyland cypress trees are best grown in zones 6-10.

As one can imagine, this short list only represents a small handful of shade trees available for one’s use. The number is limitless, depending on where you live, how fast you want your tree to grow as well as other benefits.

About the Author: Andrew Johnson is the owner of Central Texas Tree Care, a leading provider of Austin tree services in Central Texas. Certified ISA Austin arborist services including: tree trimming, tree removal, tree care and stump removal. For more information on Austin tree service please visit

Properly Fertilizing Your Trees

Fertilizing your trees is a must if you want to keep them around. What does fertilizing do? It boosts your trees health and in that assists it in fighting off pests, disease and environmental stresses.

If you are asking yourself why trees in a natural habitat live well without somebody fertilizing them- then you have to remember, those trees receive nutrition in different ways. To begin, trees in a natural habitat have access to all the minerals they need to survive and grow. To start, they are constantly receiving mulching from the leaves from prior years. They also are growing in a place where people have not scraped away valuable nutrients- which often happens in subdivisions or places homes exist.

When should you fertilize? The best time to fertilize your trees is from fall to mid-spring. It is during this time that the tree’s roots take the nutrients from the soil and use them. During a trees growing season, you can fertilize to help a tree overcome mineral deficiencies or to fight off disease. The fertilizer should be made up of macronutrients (Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium) and micronutrients (such as Iron, Magnesium and Manganese). These minerals all have different effects on the growth of a tree and different trees need different formulations.

When fertilizing your tree, you can scatter or drop the fertilizer under the tree’s drip zone. Try not to allow the fertilizer to touch the tree trunk. One should apply between .10 and .20 lbs of nitrogen per 100 square feet. If you put too much fertilizer down or allow it to lay on any part of the tree, it could create fertilizer burn.

If you don’t like the idea of using regular fertilizer and are looking for something organic, this type of fertilizer is also available and just as effective. The biggest difference is that organic fertilizers have a slower release of nutrients and they are often more difficult to find at the store, not to mention more costly. The most common types of organic fertilizers are cottonseed meal, bone meal, manure and chicken litter. As for the amount to apply, read the label carefully.

There is also a fertilizer called inorganic. This type of fertilizer is to be considered the most inexpensive and most frequently used. Inorganic fertilizers are nitrogen based and are made up of sodium nitrate, ammonium nitrate and ammonium sulfate.

How do you know if your tree is suffering and needs fertilized? The tree will show some one or more of the following symptoms:

* light green or yellow leaves
* leaves with dead spots
* leaves smaller than normal
* fewer leaves and/or flowers than normal
* short, annual twig growth
* dying back of branches at the tips
* wilting of foliage

There are also other reasons why a tree may exhibit these symptoms. A tree could have poor soil aeration or moisture. A tree could have faced adverse climatic conditions; incorrect pH; or disease. Recently transplanted trees and shrubs often will not resume a normal growth rate until the original root system is reestablished. Plants disturbed by construction within the past five to ten years may be in shock and exhibit limited new foliage growth.

Do not assume that an application of fertilizer will quickly remedy any problem which is encountered, in many cases it can make existing problems worse. You should attempt to determine the specific cause in each situation and apply corrective measures.

About the Author: Andrew Johnson is the owner of Central Texas Tree Care, a leading provider of Austin tree services in Central Texas. Certified ISA Austin arborist services including: tree trimming, tree removal, tree care and stump removal. For more information on Austin tree service please visit

The Deadly Mistletoe

There are many reasons that trees decline in health. One of those reasons is due to organisms that live within trees as either pests or parasites.

Pests and parasites are from two different kingdoms, one the animal and the other the vegetable. The animal kingdom contains insects – insects from all types and sizes, ranging from king-size larvae to microscopic mites. In the vegetable kingdom lives fungi, bacteria and viruses that harm trees. These are all primitive plant forms, with the exception of that lovely parasite, the mistletoe. As lovely as society has made the mistletoe around Christmas, it is one of the deadliest invaders of all.

The mistletoe establishes itself on a trees living tissue through tiny rootlets that have the power to dig in to the skin of the tree like fangs. It finds itself in the tree due to the fact it creates these beautiful waxy berries that birds love, which in turn are carried by them and dropped into bark crevices of other trees. Here these berries germinate under the protection of their own gum. Mistletoe cannot live in soil but must steal its nourishment from a host tree’s sap veins.

As the mistletoe fastens on to its host, the tree begins to swell. No amount of chopping, short of limb amputation, can eradicate a mature mistletoe. Small infested limbs can be removed by pruning. This is one of the more effective control methods. Cut limbs at least 12 inches below the mistletoe. Cuts that are made immediately below the stem of the mistletoe, may leave some of the root system. The remaining haustoria will develop a new top. Mistletoe also grows on large limbs or the tree’s trunk. When growing on a large limb or trunk, remove only the mistletoe. Do not try to scoop out a portion of the host when removing the plant. If a portion of the wood is removed in an attempt to remove the mistletoe roots, the structure of the limb or trunk is weakened and is more susceptible to breakage due to wind or ice accumulation during the winter months. Wood rotting and canker fungi use the cut as an entry point.

The death is slow and painless to the tree. The mistletoe, which loves all trees, can slowly decay everything from elms, hackberries, walnuts, gums and mesquites to mere skeletons. Trees vary in susceptibility to the parasite. Cedar and juniper are not bothered by this plant and pecan, live oak and magnolia trees are seldom infected with mistletoe.

How does one protect their tree from the deadly mistletoe? There may not be anything one can do. Many things have been tried. Herbicides such as Round Up, 2,4,D, Paraquat, MSMA and DSMA have been evaluated in field trials and conducted by members of the Texas Agricultural extension but these were not effective. They also caused injury to the tree. A commercial product called Florel has been approved by the EPA recently. It contains an ethylene compound. Ethylene is a natural occurring plant hormone that increases during fruit ripening. Florel is applied during the winter months and is said to kill the the top but by later summer, new growth is observed breaking through the bark of the limb. The problem with this chemical, as with many chemicals, is that it can drift and expose other trees and plants which can cause leaf shedding.

Another method is to kill the mistletoe before it goes to seed and is transferred to other plants or trees. Mistletoe takes two to three years to reach maturity. If the plant is removed before then, you can keep it from seeding.

When selecting a tree for the landscape, check with a local arborist, nursery or County Extension Agent for trees that are adapted to your area and do not have a major problem with mistletoe.

About the Author: Andrew Johnson is the owner of Central Texas Tree Care, a leading provider of Austin tree services in Central Texas. Certified ISA Austin arborist services including: tree trimming, tree removal, tree care and stump removal. For more information on Austin tree service please visit