Tree F.A.Q.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Why should I call an Etter Tree Care Arborist?  Arborists specialize in the care of individual trees.  They are knowledgeable about the needs of trees, and are trained and equipped to provide proper care of trees.”  You can learn more at International Society of Arborists.
  • Tillandsia recurvata (ballmoss)

    Tillandsia recurvata (ballmoss)

    Ball Moss – is it harmful to trees?  No, ball moss is not harmful to trees.  Ball moss is actually not a moss at all but a plant called a bromeliad that flowers and sets seeds.  Ball moss absorbs water and nutrients from the atmosphere and only takes light and space from the tree.  Ball moss is a weed and removing it from your trees is a personal decision.  If you can tolerate the ugly, it will do little harm to your trees.  If you want more attractive trees, ball moss must be managed.  Your trees will be a little more vigorous without ball moss and they will be much more beautiful. 1

  • How can ball moss be removed from trees?  Good pruning that removes deadwood and opens the outer canopy removes most ball moss and will deter the establishment of new plants.  Unfortunately, most of the pruning done in this area to remove ball moss is harmful to your tree.  When every branch with ball moss is removed leaving only a few green leaves at the end of a branch, your tree has been harmed.  This improper pruning is responsible for the decline of many trees.  If you are patient, ball moss can be suppressed with an annual application of a copper fungicide, potassium bicarbonate, or with baking soda.  Dead ball moss may hang on the tree several years after it has been killed, but it is usually cheaper to spray than to pick.1
  • Construction What do I need to do before beginning construction? Construction near trees can be extremely stressful for hem. Before beginning, plan to protect root trunks and overhead branching from damage from the construction, large equipment and delivery vehicles. Root zones need protection from compaction and damage from construction materials and run-off. Protect the natural resources of the construction site and it will pay in the end. Besides, its the law.
  • Why should I fertilize my trees?  It is important to fertilize your trees because all trees need essential minerals and nutrients to grow and remain healthy.  In the forest, these nutrients are provided by decomposing leaves and wood.  In our yards we routinely remove this debris, robbing our trees of the essential products they require to produce food.1
    Mag.w.scale The white specks on this magnolia’s leaves are scale insects. Etter Tree Care can add a product called Merit to the fertilizer we use (Bio Pak Plus) to suppress the scale.

    In addition, the root system of an open grown tree spreads out about two to three times the height of the tree; much further than most people would imagine.  Around our homes, we restrict this root spread with barriers such as streets, foundations, underground utilities, and sidewalks.  Essentially, our trees are like potted plants and we need to provide fertilizer much as we would for a house plant.1

    Fortunately, our native trees are able to endure some horrible conditions.  Some conditions are natural like the serious drought we recently experienced; others we cause such as topping, cutting roots, compaction, and chemical burn.  Providing supplemental nutrients to confined root zones helps trees develop better root systems to cope with these adverse impacts.  The aeration that occurs in the process helps counter compaction and adds oxygen to the soil.  The water that carries our fertilizer into the soil is very beneficial during drought conditions.1

    Fertilization is the most cost efficient maintenance you can do for your trees.  A healthy tree can better cope with city life and adds value to your property and to your quality of life.1

  • Will my lawn fertilizer help my trees?  Many tree owners are under the false impression that lawn fertilizers will provide their trees adequate nutrition.  Our grass lawns are very efficient competitors and little fertilizer gets past the grass to the trees.  Fertilizing grass and adding a little extra for the trees does not work well.
  • When should I have my trees fertilized?  Anytime of year is optimal for fertilizing your trees.
  • How often should I have my trees fertilized?  We strongly recommend fertilization of your trees and shrubs on a regular, programmed plan.  With our fertilizer, Bio Pak Plus, that would be once a year.  Bio Pak Plus is an organic fertilizer that slowly releases its nitrogen over an entire growing season.
  • What is Oak Wilt?  According to The Texas Forest Service, oak wilt is, “a disease caused by a fungus that clogs the water conducting vessels of infected trees, causing them to wilt and die.”
  • What causes oak wilt?  “Oak wilt is a major destructive disease caused by the fungus, Ceratocystis fagacearum.” 2
  • What does Oak Wilt do to trees?  Oak Wilt, “plugs the water conducting vessels of certain oaks and greatly reduces the flow of water up the stem of the tree.  Eventually, as more of the vessels become clogged, the tree will begin to wilt and most often die.”2
  • Does Oak wilt only affect Live oaks?  No, Oak wilt is a problem for live oaks and red oaks (including Spanish oak and Blackjack oak) in the San Antonio area and throughout Central Texas.3
  • Signs of Oak Wilt on Live Oak

    Signs of Oak Wilt on Live Oak

    How can I tell if my trees have oak wilt?  According to The Texas Forest Service, live oaks and red oaks show distinctive symptoms when they are infected with oak wilt.  For more information, see Answers about Oak Wilt.

  • How often should I have my trees pruned?  In order to answer this question you must first consider the health and phase of development your tree or trees are in.  For example, “Older trees, or trees with health problems, cannot withstand pruning as easily as younger, vigorously growing trees.”4 We will post our new guidelines on this site soon.
  • When is the best time to prune my trees?  The timing on tree pruning very much depends on the desired results.  As a rule, growth is maximized if pruning is done just before the period of rapid growth, in early spring.  Plant growth can be reduced if pruning takes place soon after the growth flush is complete for the season.  Most routine pruning and removal of weak, diseased, undesirable or dead limbs can be accomplished at any time with little effect on the tree.And don’t forget, the best time to prune Oak trees is during the summer or winter when the threat of spreading oak wilt is low/ or when the risk of oak wilt infection is low.
  • Do all pruning cuts or wounds need to be painted?  No. Most trees do not need paint or any other sealant on cuts. However, Etter Tree Care is conducting experiments with new methods of expediting wound healing. However, ALL cuts or wounds on Oaks must be painted immediately according to San Antonio ordinance.
  • Why is taking care of the base of the tree the first and most important step in proper tree care?
    The base of a tree, formerly known as the root collar, is the area of a plant where the trunk or stem joins the roots.  Trees have a noticeable flare at the root collar that we call the root flare.  This flare should always be visible and exposed to the air because the trunk and root flare are not genetically programmed to resist constant soil moisture.  Respiration occurs in this area of the tree (the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide) and constantly wet bark restricts or stops this gas exchange.  Over a period of time, this restriction causes this are of the tree to function poorly, interferes with the downward movement of food to the roots, and eventually results in root dieback and reduced water uptake.  These trees become more susceptible to disease infection, insect invasion, and to stress caused by drought, compaction, or irrigation excess.  A visible root flare, therefore, is the first and most important step to ensuring a tree’s health.  For more information read Root Collar Problems, by David Vaughan.

1 Vaughan, David, Etter Tree Care Certified Arborist
2 Oak Wilt Specialist Certification Workshop, June 8-9,2006
3 The Texas Forest Service
4 Peter Gerstenberger, Senior advisor for safety, standards and compliance for the Tree Care Industry Association
5 Tree Care Industry Association, “Type of Pruning Depends on Age of Tree”
6 Copyright 1993 by International Society of Arboriculture