Ice accumulation from freezing rain, sleet and snow can create a number of unique issues with trees. The added weight of ice and snow can stress limbs to the point of breakage. Trees having leaves on them catch more ice so they tend to have greater damage than those that have already lost their leaves, making evergreen trees like Live Oaks, Magnolias, Cedars and Wax Myrtles most susceptible.
Breaks - Broken limbs will be most common in the center of the tree since vertical limbs often double over under the weight of ice. Sometimes they can be hard to spot on trees having thick canopies. Make sure to check this area of the tree for limb breakage. Have a tree professional check the tree if you are not sure if there is significant damage. Broken limbs will need to be removed appropriately to prevent decay or weak growth in the tree.
Splits - With the added weight of ice trees with forks in their trunk structure can develop splits that extend through the branch or trunk. The split branches do not always break off of the tree and in many cases these situations CAN BE REPAIRED with little adverse health for the tree since the vascular system of the tree is still intact. The key factor in repairing the tree successfully is having it repaired as soon as possible. Minimizing the exposure of the tree's heartwood to the elements increases survival chances dramatically. The primary methods for repairing are through cabling and bracing.
Shears - As trees bend they create opposing forces (tension and compression) on the top and bottom of the limb. This can result in a shear, or split, along the length of the limb. Because of the shear, the limb will not return to its original position once the ice has melted away and the weight removed. This damage is hard to spot from the ground but is a problem for the tree since it seriously degrades the strength and structural integrity of the tree. Like splits, this type of damage may be repairable depending on the situation
The key for the health of your tree is to get the damage repaired as soon as possible and have an experienced arborist do the work. These repairs will have a significant long term impact on the shape and health of the tree.
Heritage Tree service is at The Garden Show being held March 23 and 24 in McKinney, Texas at the Meyers Park and Event Center. Come out and see a variety of landscape product service providers and look get any tree related questions answered. The show runs 9am to 5pm on Saturday and 11am to 5pm on Sunday.
Starting in March here in the Dallas area, live oaks start to turn brown, lose leaves, and generally look sickly. How bad they look varies from tree to tree with trees losing 20 to 80 percent of their leaves. This coincides with tree owners getting out in their yards to do Spring yard cleanup. It is not unusual for us to get 50 to 60 calls from homeowners to come look at their sick trees.
Fear not, this is a natural process in which the trees replace old leaves with a new set. Since Live oaks are evergreen this can be alarming to some tree owners having the misconception that they don't shed their leaves all at once.
If you still have concern, just wait a few weeks and by then most of the new leaves will be out on the tree and it will look "new and improved." If it still looks sick let us know and we'll come out and take a look.
As the storms blew into Dallas/Fort Worth this morning, I was reminded of problems created by wind damage in trees and the resulting decay problems that can be created by it. As always, it is most practical (and economical) to deploy preventative measures first. If these are not used and trees are damaged, it will be important to repair the damage done to retain the health, aesthetics and value of the tree. In this post, I'll discuss two methods of prevention.
Prevention of Wind Damage in Trees
In North Texas we have turbulent weather in late Spring and early Fall. Aside from tornados and hurricanes, much of the tree damage from high winds can be prevented by two methods - bracing and cabling. These methods have been used for many years to provide "insurance" that the trees will not fall apart.
Bracing - Trees with narrow branch angles or multiple trunks that have grown together have resulting weak structures that can fail in excessive wind. This weakness can be mitigated by bracing - inserting a large threaded rod (or bolt) through the weak branches of trunks and bolting it together. Usually a comprehensive bracing setup involves using two or more rods to maximize strength. Often these can be installed for as little as $100 which is far more economical that the loss of all or part of a tree.
An additional form of bracing involves trees that have a severe lean. In order to support the tree, it is first pruned to reduce weight stress on the lean side of the tree. Next, high strength supports are used as a "crutch" to support a portion of the weight of the tree and thus reduce stress on the roots. These supports can be made of a variety of materials (wood beams, metal pipe, concrete posts, etc.) depending on the weight being supported.
Cabling - Tree branches and trunks can be held together with high-strength hardware connected to steel cable. This technique uses opposing branches to help the tree hold itself together since there is no additional support from the ground. Often, trees benefit from multiple cables installed to provide support. Candidates for cabling include large limbs that reach way out over houses and other structures. Rather than removing these significant limbs they can be retained indefinitely with a cable system.
Note: Cables should never be wrapped around the outside of a limb or trunk to hold it together. This will result in long-term damage to the tree's vascular system and will create serious tree health issues.
So before storms damage your trees, ask an ISA certified arborist to assess the risk of wind damage to your trees and discuss appropriate preventative measures for your trees. Heritage Tree Service of Texas has an arborist on staff to provide this kind of assessment.
Most folks feel that Dallas/Fort Worth has a long growing season. As we have certainly seen this Summer, our growing season is more accurately described as two short seasons (March thru June and mid-Sept thru October). During the Summer heat trees go "dormant" to survive the stress that Summer heat puts on them.
As a result, there are two good times to fertilize trees. For our area, we recommend a fertilization beginning around April 1 and another beginning around September 15. These times coincide with the growing seasons and, in our experience yield the best growth rates in trees. The types of fertilizers used will depend on the types of trees, location and age of the tree.
It is important to note that in no circumstances should "weed-n-feed" products be used on trees. The weed killing chemicals in them can severely stunt the growth of trees by damaging feeder roots.
Heritage Tree Service of Texas can set up and manage the fertilization of your trees to maxi
Many North Texas tree owners are familiar with the term "borer" but are not sure of the meaning and implications of the term. Borer is a term used to describe a number of beetles that inhabit living trees and typically inflict severe damage to the tree during their larval stage.
These beetles are generally species specific - meaning they only infest a certain species of tree. Perhaps the most common borers in our area infest Red Oaks, Western Soapberry, and Ash trees. When infested, these trees may be badly scarred or killed.
Since Red Oaks are one of the most commonly planted landscape trees, we'll focus on Red Oak borers.
These beetles mate and lay eggs on stressed Red Oaks in late Summer just after they exit a host tree. These eggs hatch in early Fall and the larvae chew their way into the sapwood of the tree. They chew tunnels, feed and grow in this area of the tree until the following Summer when they burrow into the heartwood of the tree and begin their transformation into an adult beetle. When they mature they chew their way out of the tree and fly off to find a mate and a suitably stressed host tree for the next generation.
The holes left in late Summer typically ooze sap, which is often the first noticeable evidence of an infestation. Unfortunately, it also may be too late to treat the problem.
Evidence of a past or present infestation problem includes the following:
1) Small holes (1/8"-1/4") in lower part of tree trunk on the Southwest side of the tree. The heat from the sun provides a more favorable environment for the larvae on the Southwest side.
2) Bark begins to slough off this side of tree revealing dead tissue and exposed heartwood. This typically occurs well after the borers have left but should be treated to preserve the tree.
3) Limbs on infested side of tree turn brown and die back to trunk. This occurs due to the borer's disruption of the tree's vascular systen cutting off water to that side of the tree.
4) Canopy distress that is confined to the Southwest side of the tree.
Borer Treatment and Prevention
Borers can be treated with systemic chemicals to preserve the tree. The chemicals are applied at the base of the tree and absorbed into the vascular system, killing any feeding larvae and preventing future attacks by making the tree unattractive to the beetles.
These beetles are only attracted to trees that are under stress. Stress typically comes from extreme environmental conditions, such as drought, or newly installed trees that have not yet established in a new location. For this reason, if you suspect your Red Oak is exeriencing stress and may be attractive to borers it is best to treat it as a preventative. Heritage Tree Service of Texas has extensive experience in preventing borer infestations and treating for them in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.
Repair of Damage
It is possible to save your tree friom the damage done by borers. depending on the size and location of the infestation it may not be necessary to remove the tree and start over. It is critical to identify the infestation quickly and treat the problem thus minimizing the amount of structural damage to the tree. If the damage is not too extensive, the tree can be "disinfected" and repaired and allowed to heal safely on its own. Heritage Tree Service of Texas has experience in successfully repairing borer damage.
This year it seems that I have seen a greater variety of insect infestations. One in particular is Bagworms. They are the larval stage of a moth that is identified by caterpillars housed in strong silk cocoons that hang from infested trees and shrubs. These bags are often hard to spot since they are camoflaged by plant material the caterpillar attaches to the outside.
The more common types of affected trees include junipers, cedars and bald cypress. This year I have seen them on more unusual species like Burr Oak, Live Oak, Japanese Maple and Crape Myrtle. In fact, the Burr Oak variety is very difficult to spot due to the materials attached.
The best way to treat them is when they are actively feeding on the leaves and before they have moved to their next stage of development - the pupae. They can be controlled by a number of chemicals or an organic treatment know as BT, which is a bacteria that once ingested by the caterpillar, will cause them to die.
For most bag worms now (June/July) is the "window of time" to apply a treatment. If your infestation appears to be causing defoliation of your trees and shrubs, have Heritage Tree Service of Texas take care of the problem for you.
In the past, I worked for a local tree farm specializing in top quality field grown shade trees. The majority of trees we sold were single trunk trees, but a portion of them were grown as multi-trunk trees. I have been asked many times, "Which is better?"
The answer to the question is pure opinion since both types will survive for many years and each requires similar attention and care. So here is how each compare in certain factors:
Aesthetics: Single trunks are traditional and what most envision in a domestic yard or park environment. Multi-trunk trees have a more "wild" or "natural" look since this style is common in the woods or forests. Since they are different trees, multi-trunks of the same species may even have different appearances due to unique genetics.
Structure: Singles are straight forward. Most have a main "leader" trunk with side branching. Multi-trunk trees are a bit different since each trunk is a seperate tree grown from a different seed. As the trees get larger the trunks often fuse together (called grafting) and look more like a tree with low branch structures. If you were to cut these down they would show multiple sets of growth rings confirming seperate trees. Structurally, multi-trunks are weaker only because the trunks often lean away from one another. The canopies most often lean as well, which can result in a strange shape should one of the trunks be lost, resulting in "half tree" scenario. This leaning often results in a tree that is wider than it is tall. If selecting multi-trunks for planting, pick trees where each trunk is equal in size and has very little lean to it. This will result in a tree with better shape and strength. As the trees get large, consider having the tree's trunks cabled or braced by an arborist to prevent trunk splitting and preserve the shape of the tree.
Growth: Single trunks grow at a rate determined by the species of tree and the care it gets. Multi-trunks have seperate root systems and since they are close together, they compete for nutrients. This competition results in slower growth rates. Make sure that each trunk is the same species and thus one would not outgrow the other. Since they compete, multi-trunk trees grow 30% to 50% slower than singles trunk trees of the same species. Despite a slower growth rate, these trees can still flourish with attention and care. Ensure they have adequate sun, water and nutrients and they will have no problem growing. Just consider, all things being equal, the multi-trunk trees will be a bit smaller after a given period of growth.
I have removed trees where part of the multi-trunk tree had split away and the owners said, "I wish I hadn't planted a multi-trunk tree." With proper care and carefully placed cables and braces, these trees will last just as long and provide their "wild" beauty as long as their single trunk versions.
This is the time of year where most electric utility tree maintenance takes place. National tree companies like Nelson, Asplundh, and Trees Inc patrol the local power line easements indescriminately trimming tree limbs within 10 feet of power lines (ususlly the top lines on the poles). This creates an incredible amount of distress with tree owners worried about the future of their trees. Unfortunately the tree companies put themselves between the proverbial "rock and a hard place."
Here's what makes this bad for everyone: First, these companies bid for contracts with the utility companies which ensures that pricing is ultra competitive and rock bottom. As a result, these companies employ as few "skilled" workers as possible to keep their costs down and you will rarely find an arborist involved. Most of the cost is in purchasing and maintaining the specialized bucket trucks and chippers needed to perform the task. Next, the utility company requires a clear zone at least 10 feet from lines. That space is their "property" and anything outside of that belongs to the tree owner, more or less. As a result, tree companies diligently avoid "trespassing" and incurring more expense by trimming beyond that 10 feet - even if sound tree trimming practice would require it.
As a result, tree limbs are left as stubs and not trimmed back to the next limb junction. Many bad things result from stub cutting including poor branching, decay and insect infestation. Homeowners that are worried about their trees should have a certified arborist do an assessment to identify any issues resulting from utility pruning. This is usually very inexpensive and gives the owner good information to make decisions about their trees. The result is often a healthier tree with an improved shape and extended lifespan.
Contact Heritage Tree Service of Texas to get help with your trees suffering the effects of utility pruning
Given the time of year, its a good time to discuss mistletoe and its relationship with trees. Although, as a Christmas ornament, mistletoe has been known to attract kisses, in the world of trees, the parasitic plant is not as highly regarded.
That's right, I said "parasitic." For purpose of discussion, parasites are defined as organisms that depend on the existence of a host organism without providing any benefit to the host. Often, the parasite exists at the host's "expense."
Mistletoe is an evergreen parasitic plant that embeds into the wood of host trees. In the Dallas/Fort Worth area, typical host trees include Cedar Elm, Hackberry, Bois d'Arc, and Red Oak. Mistletoe, gets its water and nutrients through small "roots" that penetrate the sapwood of host trees. In winter, these appear as green clumps within the bare canopy of deciduous trees. Mature mistletoe grows attractive white berries that are attractive to birds. As birds eat and excrete the seeds, any that land on a host tree limb will sprout and begin the parasitic relationship with the host.
Mistletoe typically will not alone kill a tree but heavy infestations will terribly distress trees to the point where they succumb to other problems or lack the vigor found in non-infested trees. I once removed a large Cedar Elm that had all but died from an infestation that was so heavy the tree resembled an evergreen Live Oak with almost full winter foliage. Due to the infestation, the tree had no annual growth or vigor and developed grotesque burls or growths in the infested wood.
Currently, there is no reliable chemical control of this plant although there is research looking to create one. Mistletoe can be eliminated or controlled by pruning. Removing the plant or branches where the plant is attached will prevent them from maturing and propogating additional sites in the tree. This will eliminate or minimize the impact of mistletoe on your trees.
Have Heriage Tree Service of Texas help you get control of the mistloe in your trees. Call us for a free estimate.