Third times a charm. I have officially registered for the 2023 Tour des Trees Reno! The ride will start in Reno, Nevada, past Lake Tahoe and head into Northern California. Michelle and I are very excited to see what this years ride has in store for us. I humbly ask that you please consider donating to my fundraising campaign to support tree education and research. Any amount helps. Please feel free to share the links below with family or friends who might be interested. My fundraising page will be open until the end of October. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me. Thanks again for your time. Stay healthy and safe.
Link to my fundraising page:
Ice storms are serious business for Texas trees. If you are a homeowner that would like to know how to handle storm damaged trees, click here and click here. Click here to see if your damaged trees covered by insurance. If you are a tree professional, the Texas Chapter has two on-demand webinars from the ice storm in 2021. You can view them here to learn from Texas experts on how trees respond and how to treat them.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has received the full amount of the lawsuit settlement from the 1984 accident that put him in a wheelchair — $8.9 million.
Abbott, 65, was the state’s attorney general in 2013 and running for his first term as governor when he decided to voluntarily release copies of the September 1986 agreement to the media. He won a third term as governor in November.
He was 26 at the time of the incident when he went for an afternoon jog on a windy day through River Oaks in Houston. A limb snapped off a large oak tree as he was passing under it, crushing his spine and damaging his kidneys.
Abbott sued the homeowner and tree care company and won a settlement, which shows tax-free annuities in graduated payments. The payments began with a $300,000 check in 1986. They include both monthly payments that will continue for the rest of his life and lump sums that are deposited every three years until the final one last year.
Read the rest of the story here in the Dallas Morning News
Mistletoe may be a welcome holiday sight when hung over a doorway if a loved one is near. But it can be an unwelcome intruder when found in your trees, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service horticulturist.
“Mistletoe is a hemiparasite – a semi-parasitic plant,” said Allison Watkins, AgriLife Extension horticulturist for Tom Green County. “It makes its food from photosynthesis, but the roots grow into the host tree, sucking water and minerals out from the sap.”
In other words, you likely do not want to see mistletoe growing on your favorite shade tree or prized ornamental. However, mistletoe can survive as long as the tree it inhabits. So, some mistletoe alive today may still be around in 100 years.
One type of mistletoe you commonly see used as decoration over the holidays is in the family Phoradendron, which appropriately translates to “thief of the tree” in Greek. Mistletoe has been used across various cultures throughout history for everything from warding off demons from entering a doorway to protecting babies from being stolen from their cribs in the night by fairies.
Although mistletoe is called the kissing plant, its name may have originated from Old English for the words for twig and dung. How’s that to get you in the romantic holiday spirit?
Mistletoe causes tree stress and can make a tree more susceptible to diseases and insects, Watkins said. Although unlikely to kill a healthy tree, it can cause limbs to die. It can be especially hard on a tree during drought.
Mistletoe easily spreads as birds eat the berries and then spread the seed from limb to limb and tree to tree through their feces. The seeds are exceptionally sticky and may also hitchhike on their feet and beaks.
Certain species of mistletoe can also shoot out their own seeds at speeds around 60 mph once the berry bursts like an overfilled water balloon.
Some mistletoe is poisonous, so it is always wise to use care when handling the plant. Different parts of the plant and different species have varying levels of toxicity. And while birds and wildlife eat the berries, it isn’t something you want your family members, including pets, to ingest.
Mistletoe is most easily spotted in winter when many of the host trees lose their leaves to reveal clusters of the evergreen mistletoe. The spherical shape can be as large as several feet across.
Since birds like to perch in the tops of high trees, mistletoe is most often found in mature trees near the crown. A tree branch may be enlarged where the plant has attached itself.
In Texas, the type of mistletoe you’ll find on trees typically has white berries in clusters. Although we mostly find mistletoe in our region on deciduous trees, like oak and mesquite, the plant’s 1,000-plus species around the world have adapted to survive on everything from cacti to pines.
Mistletoe plays a key role in many woodland and range ecosystems. For example, its white flowers provide nectar and pollen for native bees and honeybees. There are also several types of butterflies and moths that rely solely on mistletoe species as host plants for their caterpillars.
“Birds aren’t the only animals that munch on mistletoe – squirrels will also eat the berries, and deer and porcupines will eat the plant itself, especially if other food is scarce,” said Maureen Frank, Ph.D., AgriLife Extension wildlife specialist, Uvalde.
Many animals nest in clumps of mistletoe, especially when the plant causes its host tree to form witches’ brooms, which are dense masses of distorted branches, Frank said. Mistletoe and the corresponding witches’ brooms are used for shelter by tree squirrels, flying squirrels and a variety of birds, from tiny chickadees to raptors like Cooper’s hawks.
The damage done to trees by mistletoe can also provide homes for cavity-nesting species of birds, bats, insects and small mammals.
“Even if you remove mistletoe from a tree, the root-like structure remains embedded in the tree, meaning it will grow back,” Watkins said.
Although no herbicide can kill mistletoe without harming the tree, one plant growth regulator called ethephon, Florel Fruit Eliminator, is registered in the U.S. to control the growth of mistletoe on deciduous trees, she said.
The only way to eliminate mistletoe from a tree is to prune the branch it is on. If you feel like your tree is becoming overwhelmed with the parasite, keep in mind that mistletoe takes two to three years to mature so the sooner you can remove the infected branch, then the better you minimize spread. And the smaller the branch that must be removed, then the less stress on the tree.
“In most well-maintained landscapes, there may be mistletoe here or there but it’s probably not something to worry about too much,” Watkins said.
The stress from over-pruning could be more damaging than the mistletoe itself, she said. Watkins said to keep these tips in mind if you do decide to prune:
For more information on mistletoe, visit Forest Health: Mistletoe by Texas A&M Forest Service.
What to do with fallen leaves
COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Even though it’s the Christmas season, autumn is still here and leaves are continuing to fall across the state, building up and around our homes and yards.
Fallen leaves have many benefits to our ecosystem when left alone but can also become a wildfire hazard if they remain in the wrong places. Which creates the question, what should we do with fallen leaves?
The key to leaves around your home is finding the balance between removing and leaving them.
Embers are the leading cause of homes destroyed by wildfires, and embers can gather where leaves have fallen around your home. That’s why removing leaves on and near your home can help reduce your risk to wildfire.
According to Kari Hines, Texas A&M Forest Service Firewise Coordinator, homes should be cleared of fuel buildup, or debris, from zero to five feet away. Homeowners should also decrease the fuel buildup next to wooden attachments.
“Leaves should be removed from these first five feet, usually the gutters, the garden beds that touch the home and where leaves gather up against wooden fences and wooden decks,” said Hines. “If you choose to leave leaves in your yard, which we recommend, do so in a place that is not in one of these vulnerable locations.”
So, why keep leaves in your yard at all? Leaving leaves where they fall can provide the most benefit to your yard, trees and overall ecosystem.
“We recommend leaving leaves where they are because it mimics the forest and a natural setting,” said Matt Weaver, Texas A&M Forest Service Urban Forester. “If you look at the forest floor, it’s leaves. Over time, those leaves break down and become organic material and eventually the soil itself.”
This is especially important in urban settings, Weaver said.
“In urban areas, there are a lot of soil issues like compaction, and that organic material is actually really important for tree health,” said Weaver. “Most of the soil in urban areas is lacking organic materials and the only thing to help with that is mulch, which can be leaves.”
Leaves can be used as mulch to also insulate and protect the roots of trees and plants from cold weather.
“Leaves also provide food and shelter to many insects and organisms that help keep our soil healthy,” said Hines. “By leaving leaves, you are leaving the insects that are overwintering in that thermal protection layer, you’re returning organic material to your soil.”
If you want to reduce long-term yard maintenance while still providing some benefit to insects in your yard, you can use a mulching attachment to mulch the leaves in place soon after leaves fall, but don’t wait too long or you risk mulching the beneficial insects.
The smaller pieces will be less likely to blow away in the wind, while still offering some shelter to overwintering insects. The smaller pieces will also decompose easier, speeding up nutrient cycling and allowing your trees to use the nutrients quicker.
The other option, removing leaves completely, while less desirable, can be done by making a compost pile, burning or discarding of leaves in a biodegradable container. Composting leaves is a good way to cycle those nutrients back into the soil as it is a good natural fertilizer for gardens and flowerbeds.
If you choose to burn your leaves, use safe debris burning practices: keep your piles small, clear flammable materials away from your piles, follow all local burning restrictions and avoid burning on dry, windy days.
Though leaving leaves will require some work throughout the winter to keep windblown leaves from building up around your house, the benefits they provide are invaluable. Find the balance of leaves in your yard this season to help keep it safe from wildfires and provide environmental benefits.
Texas A&M Forest Service contacts:
Kari Hines, Firewise Program Coordinator, 512-375-0354, firstname.lastname@example.org
Matt Weaver, Urban Forester, 713-688-8931, email@example.com
Communications Office, 979-458-6605, firstname.lastname@example.org
You may have heard the saying, often credited to a Chinese proverb, that the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, and the second-best time is now.
What’s less well-known is how to choose the best tree and the best site in your landscape to ensure years of enjoyment.
Putting the right tree in the right place will help avoid future problems and bolster the benefits the tree provides over its lifetime. Those benefits include providing shade for energy conservation, increasing property values, reducing stormwater runoff, providing habitat for wildlife and enhancing quality of life.
The best time to plant trees in Texas is November through early spring, and a little research before planting will increase your chances of long-term success.
The first thing to do before you plant is to look at the area where the tree would be growing, taking into consideration any obstructions as well as the type of soil in the area.
“Before you even decide what tree you want, when you’re thinking about planting a tree, look at your site,” said Mickey Merritt, Texas A&M Forest Service Urban and Community Forestry Program Leader. “How large is the site? What kind of tree will it support at maturity? Look for any safety issues. Where are the utilities located? Are electric lines overhead or underground?”
The wrong tree or an inappropriate site can be detrimental to property values and can lead to other problems and even safety issues.
“If you plant the wrong tree in the wrong spot, it could lead to all kinds of problems, including tree instability, structural failure, damage to sidewalks, driveways or underground utility lines, as well as blocking lines of site and obstruction of signage if planted close to a street,” Merritt said. “The tree won’t be allowed to reach its potential, which in turn stresses and weakens the tree.”
Once you’ve established the location, the type of new tree you’re adding can be determined by looking at why you’re planting it and what it will contribute to the site.
“What do you want that tree to provide? Do you want fall color, flowers, wildlife benefits, energy conservation? Do you want it to frame a view?” Merritt said. “Thinking about your reason for planting will help you decide what kind of tree you want.”
Establishing the purpose for planting the tree will help when considering other factors, including the size and shape of the tree at maturity and whether it will fit the design and layout of your property.
Other things to keep in mind include the amount of sun and water available in the planting location, the type of soil and the area available for the roots. Small trees need about 400 cubic feet of soil, and large trees may need more than 1,200 cubic feet of soil area at maturity.
Merritt said trees native to the area are usually the best option.
“They have evolved within the area, they handle the weather patterns and conditions better, they generally live longer and are healthier, are less prone to attack by pests and they provide more benefit to wildlife,” he said.
Across Texas, different tree species thrive in different regions. In the central part of the state, Texas Mountain Laurel, Lacey Oak and Mexican Sycamore are generally good options. In the Dallas-Fort Worth area, American Smoketree, Bigtooth Maple and Ginkgo tend to do well. And in East Texas, in addition to pine trees, Eastern Hophornbeam, Pawpaw and Black Walnut trees are popular.
Invasive trees should be avoided because they decrease biodiversity by threatening the survival of native plants and animals.
For help finding the best trees for your region of the state, visit the Texas Tree Planting Guide at https://texastreeplanting.tamu.edu.
Texas A&M Forest Service Contacts:
Mickey Merritt, Texas A&M Forest Service Urban and Community Forestry Program Leader, 713-562-6469, email@example.com
Texas A&M Forest Service Communications Office, 979-458-6066, firstname.lastname@example.org
Join in the Texas Arbor Day celebration here: https://tfsweb.tamu.edu/arborday/
Landscape Plants for the South-Central United States is a resource for students, Green Industry professionals, and serious gardeners interested in designing and maintaining sustainable built environments.
The heart of the book is extensive discussions of hundreds of taxa of native and introduced landscape plants. To facilitate selection during design, plants are arranged in their predominant landscape use categories, rather than in botanic families or alphabetical order.
For each main taxa, we provide detailed identification characteristics, plant habit, growth characteristics, cultural requirements, regions of adaptation, aesthetic and ecosystem assets that the taxon can bring to designs for built environments, typical modes of utilization, liabilities and limitations potentially associated with the plant, plant origins, etymologies, and socio or economic importance.
Numerous related taxa are also included. Over a thousand black and white images and line drawings enrich the text throughout and 140 pages of color images are included in plates following each section of the book.
Following up the plant discussions is an extensive glossary of morphological, biological, and cultural terminology, including notations on key diseases and pests mentioned in the text. A master list of references provides a starting point for further studies. An index of all scientific (accepted, synonymous, and misapplied) and common names of plant taxa facilitates plant sleuthing when only a common name or out-of-date scientific name is known.
Click Here: How to water your tree in a drought on YouTube from the Texas A&M Forest Service
How vegetation can counter the urban heat island effect
COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Cities across Texas have endured record temperatures this summer, and it’s not solely the weather that’s to blame.
Developed areas often experience higher temperatures than nearby rural areas when green spaces are replaced with roads, parking lots and large buildings that retain more heat during the day than natural landscapes.
Areas in these microclimates of a highly developed city, known as urban heat islands, can be up to 20 degrees warmer than surrounding areas that are more rural, according to Climate Central, a nonprofit news organization that analyzes and reports on climate science.
“This prolonged extreme urban heat is a serious threat to our local environment, our public health and our quality of life,” said Mac Martin, Texas A&M Forest Service Urban and Community Forestry Program Partnership Coordinator.
In addition to air and surface temperatures, contributing factors for urban heat islands include heat generated from vehicles and machinery, buildings, road surfaces and even human bodies.
Even at night, urban heat islands retain the day’s heat.
“Because these surfaces are holding onto that heat during the day, cities are unable to cool off at night, even in the winter,” Martin said. “This prolonged exposure to warmer temperatures, even if it’s not necessarily warm outside, is forcing us to experience what was once considered long-term effects of the urban heat island at a quicker pace.”
Martin said urban heat is the nexus of potential issues within an urban environment, with higher temperatures affecting water quality and human health and comfort.
“It truly is like a trickle-down effect, starting with electricity consumption,” said Martin, noting that as communities rely more on air-conditioners to maintain a comfortable temperature, energy grid operators may be forced to resort to brownouts or blackouts to prevent system overloads.
That increase in energy consumption has a direct relationship to increasing air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.
“The pollutants are harmful to human health but they also contribute to really complex air quality problems including things like ground-level ozone, fine particulate matter and even acid rain,” Martin said.
Those issues contribute to an increase in asthma and other respiratory problems.
Heat islands promote higher daytime temperatures, reduce nighttime cooling and increase air pollution levels, which all contribute to heat-related deaths and heat-related illnesses. Heat islands also intensify the impact of naturally occurring heat waves.
Older adults, young children, people who work outside and people with health conditions are most likely to suffer health problems related to heat islands, and the impacts are unequally distributed across income levels.
“I don’t think it’s any great secret that low-income housing can be in some of the most environmentally inhospitable places within an urban area, with little to no greenspace and increased exposure to air pollution, flooding and other risks,” Martin said. “Those risks are exacerbated by the urban heat island and are putting these communities at an even higher risk.”
Urban heat islands also have direct negative impacts to water quality.
“High temperatures of pavement and the rooftop surfaces can heat up stormwater runoff, which drains directly from our streets into our storm sewers and is deposited unfiltered into the rivers and streams and even drinking water reservoirs as well,” Martin said.
The warmer runoff impacts the biodiversity of streams by limiting the oxygen available, meaning less capacity for life within our streams.
“Several studies have found that urban streams are hotter on average than streams in rural areas and that temperatures in urban streams can rise over 7 degrees during just small, regular storm events due to the heated runoff from urban materials,” Martin said.
The benefits of trees
The good news is that the solution to some of the effects of urban heat islands may be as close as the nearest tree.
“Truly, one of the best defenses for our existing infrastructure is utilizing our urban forests, trees and vegetation to help cool the environment,” Martin said.
Larger expanses of trees can improve air circulation, creating a communitywide cooling effect while also acting as sinks for harmful pollutants.
“Trees are effective air filters by design,” Martin said, “filtering out not only gases that are harmful to us but that are harmful to the Earth’s ecosystem as a whole.”
Mature trees can release hundreds of gallons of water as vapor every day through their leaves, cooling the air. Shaded areas can be between 20 to 45 degrees cooler than peak temperatures in unshaded areas.
Connor Murnane, Texas A&M Forest Service District Forester who manages the W.G. Jones State Forest, said many visitors to the forest see it as an oasis in the urban setting.
The 1,700-acre property draws about 80,000 visitors to its shaded trails each year. It lies within Montgomery County and is surrounded by the growing cities of Conroe and The Woodlands.
A lot of the development has come in the past 10 to 15 years, Murnane said, creating what he called a “concrete jungle” of neighborhoods, apartment complexes, businesses and retail centers surrounding the forest.
Murnane said the forest helps absorb some of the effects of that growth, including water runoff.
“As these non-permeable surfaces like concrete, asphalt, things like that get built up around the forest, all that water that was once being filtered through the ground … now has to go somewhere else. Typically, the Jones (State Forest) catches most of that,” Murnane said.
Murnane said most of the visitors to the forest come for an escape from the hectic pace of their lives and to reconnect with nature.
“It’s one of the few places like it left within Texas, if not the nation,” Murnane said. “Some of the oldest trees are over 100 years old, contributing to an extensive canopy.”
That canopy creates cool zones in the forest.
“In the shaded areas of the forest, you’re looking at temperature differences of at least 20 degrees cooler underneath the shade than you would be out standing on pavement or in a parking lot somewhere,” Murnane said.
Solutions that work
Murnane said the cities of Conroe and nearby Shenandoah have taken an active role in offsetting the effects of urbanization by committing to planting and maintaining trees. Both cities are certified through the Arbor Day Foundation’s Tree City USA program. Nearly 100 cities across the state participate in the program.
“Embracing that idea of maintaining and preserving and improving their urban tree canopy is critical to offsetting the urban heat island effects. Especially as cities develop and are ever-growing, the most important bit of that being maintaining what they do have,” which includes how they adapt to things such as invasive species, Murnane said.
“I would say that those cities that are making strides to commit to maintaining their urban tree canopy are really doing a good part to help offset the urban heat island effect,” Murnane said.
Jaime González, Houston Healthy Cities Program Director for The Nature Conservancy, said the organization has found success in forming partnerships to use nature-based solutions to work for healthier communities and aid in urban resiliency.
One partnership with a coalition of government agencies and research institutions, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, used a group of community scientists equipped with heat sensors attached to their vehicles to collect data for a detailed heat map of parts of Houston and Harris County.
“In particular, we really wanted to showcase disinvested communities and communities of color,” González said. “And now that information is openly available and free for the public to use.”
That heat-mapping project in 2020 identified Gulfton in southwest Houston as the city’s hottest neighborhood.
“It’s a large immigrant community that is perhaps the most diverse community in the state. It is very dense by Texas standards, and it’s a community that has many strengths and leadership and beautiful people, but it has relatively little nature compared to other neighborhoods, particularly tree canopy,” González said.
On the August afternoon the heat-mapping survey was done, Gulfton was 17 degrees hotter than the coolest place measured in the county.
A pilot project to introduce nature-based solutions to the neighborhood will begin in the fall, with tree plantings and a forestry strategy.
The Houston Healthy Cities program is also working with a coalition of groups to try to bring shade to Houston bus stops, and is working with an architecture firm to create a model for a next-generation schoolyard at a preschool in the Alief neighborhood, another disinvested community.
The design includes more than 4 acres of prairie wetlands and over 200 trees.
“The whole campus is designed to absorb more water, to reduce mowing cycles and to be cooler,” González said. “We need to manage whole landscapes differently, including school campuses.”
González emphasized the importance of maintaining the existing tree canopy, along with the thoughtful placement of trees and diversity of species for the best results.
“There are some places where kids gather to play with no shade,” González said. “It makes the whole playground a lot less accessible during the summertime to kids who may not have an opportunity to travel elsewhere. So strategic placement of shade, including trees, is really important in places like bus stops, playgrounds and places where people gather.”
The nonprofit Texas Trees Foundation has also established partnerships with various groups and agencies to help further its mission of planting trees and protecting the urban forest across North Texas.
The 40-year-old group’s programs include initiatives to connect students and teachers to nature while planting trees at Dallas school campuses, transform the Southwestern Medical District’s streetscape into a tree-lined parkway, and provide opportunities for community members, homeowners associations and other organizations to design tree-planting projects for their neighborhoods.
Those programs originated from a 2017 urban heat island management study for the city of Dallas that found the city was getting warmer than every city in the country except Phoenix.
That study identified a lack of tree canopy at Dallas schools and the Southwestern Medical District, said Rachel McGregor, Texas Trees Foundation Urban Forestry Manager.
“It is about putting the right tree in the right place, especially in urban areas,” McGregor said. “You want that tree to make it over time.”
The 2017 study also led to the formation of an urban forest master plan, which was unanimously adopted in 2021 by the Dallas City Council.
Lannie McClelen, Program Manager for the Southwestern Medical District project, said the work isn’t a standard streetscape.
“We want to change things up and create a different model,” McClelen said.
Part of that model relies on data delivered by street-level thermal sensors, which will be used to create models for design solutions that will favor pedestrians.
“They’re going to tell us what’s happening at the pedestrian level,” McClelen said. “We want to be able to influence the microclimate for pedestrians. Where we place benches, where we place food tables will be done based on science and not aesthetics.”
The group’s school campus project, a partnership with Dallas ISD, is about more than trees, McGregor said, and includes walking trails and outdoor classrooms.
“We’re trying to mitigate urban heat while connecting a human health aspect to it,” McGregor said.
McGregor and McClelen said the key to such projects is working in partnerships.
“We’re always having conversations with people in different areas,” McGregor said. “Providing good, research-based information for a successful tree-planting is important.”
McClelen recommended starting with an inventory of existing trees.
“Many, many schoolyards do not have a single tree, and that would be a great place to start,” she said.
For more information about Healthy Trees, Healthy Lives, visit healthytreeshealthylives.org.
For more about Texas Trees Foundation, visit texastrees.org.
For details about the W.G. Jones State Forest, go to tfsweb.tamu.edu/jones-state-forest.
Texas A&M Forest Service contacts:
Mac Martin, Urban and Community Forestry Program Partnership Coordinator, Texas A&M Forest Service, email@example.com, (979) 458-6650
Connor Murnane, District Forester, Texas A&M Forest Service, firstname.lastname@example.org, (936) 273-2261
Jaime González, Houston Healthy Cities Program Director for The Nature Conservancy, email@example.com
Darren Benson, Communications Specialist, Texas A&M Forest Service, darren.benson @tfs.tamu.edu, (979) 458-6649