What is Mistletoe?

Most shrubs stay earthbound but not mistletoe. Mistletoe likes to make its home high in the canopies of oak trees, but what is this thing? It’s a parasitic evergreen shrub that sends its root-like structures into tree branches, where they absorb water and minerals. It’s not just for kissing at Christmas time. In fact, it can cause many problems for a tree. In a severe mistletoe infestation, it can kill an oak tree (or a cedar elm). Its genus name, Phoradendron, literally means ‘thief of a tree.’

What does mistletoe look like?

Mistletoe shrubs encompass more than 250 species. It is an evergreen shrub. You can identify it easily when evergreen trees lose their leaves in autumn. From small sprigs to rounded plants, mistletoe generally arises from oak branches and twigs. In Europe, mistletoe has smooth-edged, oval, evergreen leaves borne in pairs along a woody stem and waxy, white berries in clusters of two or six. The Eastern version of this plant, found in North America is similar but has shorter, broader leaves and longer clusters of 10 or more berries.

What’s the life cycle of mistletoe?

Mistletoe is a flowering plant that produces flowers and seeds. They can be either male or female. The flowers bloom in autumn with the male flowers producing the pollen that fertilizes the female flowers. Fertilized flowers produce the telltale berries which mature over winter and ripen from late winter to early spring. Plants are usually about three to five years old before they can produce the berries, which are a favorite food of many birds. Well, the birds that are immune to the toxic berry at any rate. The excreted seeds have a gummy coating and this helps them stick to a tree. After the seeds adhere to a tree, they can germinate very easily. For seeds to grow into a shrub, they must first anchor themselves to the tree by sending root-like structures called haustoria into oak tree branches. Once the haustoria is established, the mistletoe begins to grow leaves.

What kinds of damage can mistletoe cause?

Although mistletoe contains chlorophyll and is therefore capable of photosynthesis (a mistletoe can make about 98% of its own food), it still robs the tree of water and nutrients. This parasitic plant weakens trees during periods of drought and can cause tree death. It can increase a tree’s mortality rate significantly during a drought. Mistletoe also damages trees in higher areas of bird populations and in direct proportion of tree height. The taller the tree is; the greater the chance of infection it has.

For more information on this parasitic plant, please stay tuned to our blog. Next week, we’ll talk about removing mistletoe, which is a service we are happy to perform for you. If you have questions or concerns about a possible mistletoe infestation on your trees, please contact us at 512-341-8888.



The Vascular System of a Tree

The vascular system of a tree deals with how food and water travel between the roots and the leaves.  We know that, without water and food, our trees would die. A tree must have a way to absorb water and food and distribute it to other parts of the tree, right?

Water and food travel up from the roots via a system of tubes called the xylem. Sugars made during photosynthesis travel down from the leaves through the phloem. Each year, new layers of xylem and phloem are added to the tree. The new layers exist along with the old as the tree grows.

We know that trees need oxygen. Oxygen needs to be available to a tree’s root system. This chemical element needs to be available in the soil. Oxygen can be lost when soil is compacted or waterlogged.  One of the functions of the roots is to take water up from the soil and send it to the leaves to be used during photosynthesis. (For more on photosynthesis, please visit our blog post on the subject here.)

Tiny root hairs perform this function so that photosynthesis can occur. They absorb water. These hairs can wear out pretty quickly and are constantly being replaced. We know that water is pulled up through the tree via transpiration. It is used in photosynthesis and then released into the atmosphere, along with oxygen. This is done via the stomata, tiny pores that are located on the underside of leaves. Stomata create their own tiny moist atmosphere when they’re open. When water is released through the stomata, more is pulled up from the roots like liquid through a straw.

Some trees have the ability to close the stomata during stressful times like drought. This helps them to reduce water loss and protect themselves. However, they can’t stay shut forever or photosynthesis will not occur. Chlorophyll, the green pigment found in leaves, is located in cells called chloroplasts. This is where photons of light are captured and, through a process involving water and carbon dioxide, sugars are made. The sugars are sent down to the roots of the plant through the phloem.

That’s basically what the vascular system of a tree does. It sends water up and food down. Do you have any questions? We encourage you to ask them on our Facebook page so our knowledgeable community can get in on the conversation. If you notice problems with your tree, please don’t hesitate to contact us at 512-341-8888. We are always happy to help at Austin Tree Service.


Tree Transpiration – How does it work?

Do you know what tree transpiration is? Do you know why it’s so important? Well, we’re here to tell you. Tree transpiration is the process by which moisture (aka water) is carried through the tree from the roots to small pores on the underside of leaves. There it changes into vapor and is released into the atmosphere. About 10 percent of the moisture in the atmosphere is released by trees and plants through this process of transpiration. The remaining 90 percent is mainly supplied by evaporation by oceans, seas, rivers and other bodies of water.

But how does tree transpiration work exactly?

Let’s start by telling you that tree transpiration takes up about 98% of the tree’s energy. It’s obviously a vital function that the tree performs. For tree transpiration to occur, you need water. Water moves from the soil into the tree’s roots up through the trunk and into the leaves. The water, which is warmed by the sun, turns into vapor. Yes, it evaporates. It then passes out through thousands of tiny spores (stomata) which reside mostly on the underside of the leaf surface.

What are the two main functions of tree transpiration?

The two main functions of tree transpiration are cooling the tree and pumping water and minerals to the leaves for photosynthesis to occur. Trees need to cool themselves for several reasons. When temperatures are too high, energy systems, or metabolic functions, of the tree, will slow down. Growth slows down or stops. In extreme heat, trees become stressed and can die. Sometimes, heat bubbles can form that block the flow of water, leading to the tree becoming dehydrates. However, with tree transpiration occurring properly and regularly, that is less likely to happen.

How do trees, through transpiration, prevent dehydration?

Since tree transpiration is an evaporative cooling system that brings down the temperature of the tree, it must be regulated. Why? It can lead to water loss. Within the tree, there are guard cells on the stomata. When water moves into the guard cells, they swell and arch open. As water moves out, the guard cells relax and close. The guard cells are sensitive to light intensity, temperature, wind, relative humidity and carbon dioxide concentrations inside the leaf. The stomata must also open to take in carbon dioxide for photosynthesis, especially during the morning on sunny days. The more they are open, the more the tree will transpire and lose water. If you water your trees early in the morning, this will support plant energy especially during the summer.

How do trees pump water and minerals to leaves so photosynthesis can occur?

Trees pump water and minerals via transpiration similar to the way you suck liquid through a straw. Water and minerals move against the force of gravity and go up. The tiny capillaries called xylem are water channels via which water travels. Since water has an extremely strong bonding process, the sucking force created when water gets to the top of the channel causes its evaporation. However, the fact that the tree can create this force is due to negative pressure which lifts the column of water to the leaf surface.

We think tree transpiration is a miraculous thing. Don’t you think so too? We hope you enjoyed this article and learned something new about it. If you want, we also encourage you to read our articles on photosynthesis and tree respiration. All three processes form the tree’s water cycle. If you have questions or feel that your tree is not functioning properly, please call us at 512-341-8888. We can’t wait to help you out.

Tree Respiration – How does it work?

Trees respiration is an interesting process. It is the opposite of photosynthesis. (For more on photosynthesis, please visit this blog page. We’ve covered the topic already.) Tree respiration occurs constantly in the mitochondria of each of the tree’s cells. Tree respiration is part of how a tree breathes.

Tree respiration uses up stored oxygen and releases carbon dioxide, energy and water into the atmosphere. Okay, trees don’t actually breathe, but tree respiration is comparable to when we inhale air into our lungs. Photosynthesis is like the tree taking an exhale. Tree respiration does not directly benefit the environment. However, trees still absorb more harmful carbon dioxide than they release into the environment thanks to photosynthesis. For example, a medium-sized tree releases the same amount of air required for a human being to breathe.

As we said before, tree respiration occurs in the mitochondria of each tree cell. First, glucose gets oxidized. The chemical potential energy of this bond turns into the chemical potential bonds of an ATP molecule. (We know – it sounds technical, but hang on.) The ATP molecule is then transported throughout the cell. The molecule’s energy is then used to complete tasks in the cell. Therefore, respiration energizes the cells of the tree.

Trees respire constantly unlike in photosynthesis when they need the sun’s help. In dark conditions, tree respiration takes place but not photosynthesis. If the tree stops respiring, it will die. Tree respiration is basically a chemical reaction that gives the tree the energy (food) it needs to survive.

The word equation for tree respiration is this:

glucose + oxygen → carbon dioxide + water (+ energy)

It is the opposite of the equation for photosynthesis. The two need to work together so a tree can breathe properly. If you are having difficulty understanding this, we encourage you to ask questions on our Facebook page, located at: https://www.facebook.com/KeepingAustinGreen.

If you need us to come look at your trees to make sure they’re healthy, we can do that for you. Don’t hesitate to call us at 512-341-8888. We are happy to help you at Austin Tree Service.

Famous Trees of Texas – Bloys Symbolic Oak

In Jeff Davis County, there’s a gray oak that’s come to symbolize religious freedom. Picture this. It’s October 10, 1890. A man stands on an Arbuckle coffee box. He’s using it as his pulpit. There are rough planks across sawhorses for pews. The oak serves as a tabernacle for the congregation. It’s a “cowboy” camp meeting. The Reverend William J. Bloys is a Presbyterian home missionary. He’s devoted himself to the camp idea for nearly 30 years, and he’s here, conducting a three-day meeting.

The site of this camp meeting was Skillman’s Grove, which is about 17 miles southwest of Fort Davis on Highway 166. The meeting may have come about because at an earlier worship service at the John Z. Means Ranch, Mrs. Means had a wish that ranch neighbors could meet at least once a year and worship together. Later that year, 21 children and 27 adults assembled under this ancient oak tree for that first camp meeting.

In subsequent years, the meetings would be held in a gospel tent and, after 1912, in a wooden building. Today, the week-long assembly has an average daily attendance of 1500 men, women and children. The camp meetings became ecumenical shortly after the first meeting. By 1904, the Bloys Campmeeting Association was formed. It was comprised of four religious denominations – Presbyterian, Baptist, Methodist and Disciple. At the chartering meeting, the hat was passed around and over $1500 was collected. That money was used to purchase the 640 acres of land including Skillman’s Grove. This includes the tree under which the first service was held. It became known as the Bloys Symbolic Oak.

The tree itself is structured in a beautiful way. About two feet above ground, its four main limbs unite to form a single stout trunk. Some believe those four limbs symbolize the four different churches that have come together for the meetings these many years. Each of the four denominational ministers preaches once each day in a planned rotation. In addition to the preaching, special music by great musicians and congregational singing makes for a truly inspirational seven day experience. The continuation of this religious meeting is in honor of John and Exa Means as well as Reverend Bloys who made it happen under the old oak tree so many years ago. Please respect the tree, as its on private property. It’s best to view it from the road.

To learn more about famous trees of Texas, stick with our blog. We try to update regularly in addition to our other content. If you have questions about your trees, don’t hesitate to contact us at 512-341-8888.


Austin Tree Service, Inc. Earns Esteemed 2016 Angie’s List Super Service Award

Award reflects our consistently high level of customer service

Austin Tree Service, Inc. has earned the home service industry’s coveted Angie’s List Super Service Award, reflecting an exemplary year of customer service to members of the local services marketplace and consumer review site in 2016.

This achievement is particularly significant as Angie’s List experienced unprecedented member growth in 2016. More than 1.6 million consumers, many of whom were eager to quickly hire highly qualified service pros, joined Angie’s List after the company added a new, free membership tier.

“Companies that can meet higher demands without missing a beat in their exemplary performance standards truly do stand apart from their peers,” said Angie’s List Founder Angie Hicks. “Only a fraction of the tree trimming and tree removal companies in Austin, TX were able to do it.”

Angie’s List Super Service Award 2016 winners have met strict eligibility requirements, which include an “A” rating in overall grade, recent grade, and review period grade. The SSA winners must also be in good standing with Angie’s List, pass a background check and abide by Angie’s List operational guidelines.

“Austin Tree Service is deeply grateful to receive this award. To us, this award is a symbol of success in both our tireless endeavor to embody excellence in our work and loyalty to our customers and the upholding of the rigorous standards of ethics and quality set by the International Society of Arborists. We are thankful for this award and for our continued opportunity to serve as trusted professionals in tree service,” said business owner Adam Sahibzada.

Service company ratings are updated daily on Angie’s List as new, verified consumer reviews are submitted. Companies are graded on an A through F scale in areas ranging from price to professionalism to punctuality.

For more than 21 years, Angie’s List restricted access to its verified reviews to consumers who paid membership fees. When the company removed that barrier, some companies worried that the new, non-paying members would not be as engaged as members of the past. Experience has shown, however, that these newly added members are just as engaged – across all age groups – as prior members. Also, because the company continues to adhere to its review verification process, there has been no degradation of review quality.

“The biggest change at Angie’s List is that we are connecting even more consumers to high quality service professionals,” Hicks said. “And that’s good for everyone.”

Angie’s List helps facilitate happy transactions between more than 4.5 million consumers nationwide and its collection of highly rated service providers in more than 720 categories of service, ranging from home improvement to health care. Built on a foundation of more than 10 million verified reviews of local service, Angie’s List connects consumers directly to its online marketplace of services from member-reviewed providers, and offers unique tools and support designed to improve the local service experience for both consumers and service professionals.


Why do I have to pay taxes for Texas tree services?

Many people wonder why they are getting what they may feel is an extra charge on their invoices when they work with us. We guarantee that we are not misquoting you for our services. We must charge you taxes. The state of Texas requires it.

According to the comptroller’s office, if you do landscaping or lawn or plant (or tree) care, you should be collecting sales and use taxes. This includes any work the company does to improve lawns, yards and ornamental plants and trees. The tax should be collected on the total charge for these services. This is often why we cannot include the total tax in your estimate. It’s not known until the work is completed. We want you to be aware that all of our estimates are for the work done, not for the tax you can expect to pay. That way there is no confusion when you get your bill from Austin Tree Service.

Taxable services include most of what we do. They are:

  • Planting, transplanting, relocating and removing indoor or outdoor plants
  • Identifying, preventing or curing plant diseases
  • Pruning, bracing, spraying, fertilizing and watering plants
  • Planting, mowing, trimming and edging grass or other ground cover
  • Planting and maintaining flower gardens
  • Trimming, spraying, and maintaining trees

The state of Texas requires that we clearly delineate the services we perform and provide documentation if necessary to show whether it is taxable or not. As you can see, pretty much everything that we do is taxable in the state of Texas. While it’s true that some states don’t charge taxes for tree care, Texas is not one of them. All of our service area is in Austin and the surrounding areas which is clearly a part of Texas whether we like it or not (just kidding). Therefore, it’s subject to Texas state tax.

If you ever have questions on your bill, we encourage you to contact us. We just don’t want you to be surprised if you see an extra charge on your bill for taxes. We must charge them and pay them to the state. It’s the law.

We thank you for your understanding and want to ensure your customer satisfaction. We are an honest and reputable company with an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau. You can trust us to do your work professionally and responsibly. If you have any issues, please don’t hesitate to contact us at 512-341-8888.

Thank you.

Photosynthesis and Trees – How Does It Work Exactly?

Photosynthesis is an important process in helping trees live and grow. It allows the tree to trap the sun’s energy in the form of sugar using its leaves. Leaves then store the resulting sugar in their cells in the form of glucose for immediate and potential tree growth. Photosynthesis is a natural chemical process that takes twelve molecules of water from the roots of the tree and six molecules of carbon dioxide from the air. Together, these molecules create sugar, or food, for the tree. It’s a vital process for tree health and growth.

What is photosynthesis?

Photosynthesis is the process by which trees take the energy from the sun, or light in general, and turn it into nutrients so they can live and grow. They turn the light into chemical energy in the form of sugar, or glucose. For a tree to undergo the process of photosynthesis, it needs more than just light. It also needs carbon dioxide from the air and water from the root system.

Where, in the tree, does photosynthesis take place?

Photosynthesis occurs in the tree’s leaves. Why? This is where they keep all of the ingredients they need for the process to take place. The root system is responsible for bringing up water from the ground so make sure your trees are well watered or irrigated. The water permeates the leaves. Then, the carbon dioxide gets inside the leaves via its stomata, or pores. This is how oxygen will exit the tree afterwards. Yes, the tree gives back to the Earth using photosynthesis. It takes carbon dioxide from the air but returns oxygen to the Earth. Isn’t that great?

What’s the equation of photosynthesis?

6 carbon dioxide molecules + 6 water molecules + sunlight = 6 oxygen molecules + glucose + water. What does this even mean? Well, for those of us who are not scientific geniuses, it is actually pretty simple. The equation of photosynthesis means that the tree uses carbon dioxide, water and sunlight to create oxygen, glucose and water. The tree uses the glucose as food. Chlorophyll molecules of the trees are responsible for giving the tree its green pigment. These cells also use the sun’s energy to separate some hydrogen from the water. They add it to the carbon and oxygen molecules. This creates soluble carbohydrates, or glucose, which the tree turns into starch and stores. The oxygen atoms from the water molecules are then free to go into the air as free oxygen, which trees release back into the atmosphere. This is why trees are so good for our health and the environment.

How does the tree use the products created from photosynthesis?

The trees basically use the glucose as their food source. The phloem, a system made up of tubular cells, transports this food bringing the glucose, or sugar, from leaves to other areas of the tree. When the food reaches its destination, it is used to produce hormones, resins and vitamins, each of which are necessary for growth as well as maintaining a resistance to pest infestations and trees.

Don’t you think the process of tree photosynthesis is amazing? We sure do. We hope you keep your trees well-watered so that they can engage in this process as often as they need to. For more information on trees, please keep reading our blog. At Austin Tree Service, we try to educate you about your trees so they stay healthy and you stay happy. If you have any issues with your tree, please call us at 512-341-8888.

Holiday Tree Recycling in Austin – the Proper Way to Dispose of your Tree

Christmas is over. We know – it came and went by like a flash. Now, you’ve got that holiday tree and you don’t know what to do with it. In the Austin area, there’s really only one thing to do – recycle it. Austin’s city government makes it easy for you to recycle your tree. They want you to give your tree a new life by recycling it. Isn’t that great?

How can I recycle my holiday tree?

It’s easy. You can either leave it by your curbside if you are a City of Austin curbside customer. If not, you can head on down to Zilker Park and drop your tree off on selected days and times.

Curbside collections of holiday trees

For curbside collection, all you have to do is put your tree out on the day of curbside collection. You should remove all decorations from the tree first. The City asks that you set the tree out by 6:30 am the day of your curbside service. Please remove the stand too. If your tree is over 6 feet tall, it should be cut in half. Just leave the tree outside as is. Do not put it in a plastic bag. They’ll come by and take your tree as they go about their regular route.

Zilker Park Drop-off of holiday trees

If you aren’t a City of Austin curbside customer or just want to join others in a sense of community, head on over to Zilker Park on the following days to recycle your holiday tree:

  • Saturday, December 31st
  • Saturday, January 7th
  • Sunday January 8th

Drop off is between 10 am and 2pm on those days. Make sure your tree has no artificial snow on it. If so, the folks at Zilker cannot accept it for recycling. Again, you should remove all decorations and stands. The trees that are collected will be turned into mulch. The mulch will be available for free on a first-come, first served basis to Austin residents beginning on Thursday, January 19th. If you plan to pick up some mulch, please remember to bring your own tools and storage containers for loading and transporting it.

For more information, please visit: http://www.austintexas.gov/department/holiday-tree-recycling

Tree Biology – The Main Parts of a Tree

At Austin Tree Service, we want you to know as much as you can about your trees. We think it helps you take better care of your trees. The better care you take of your trees, the longer your trees will last. In this blog post, we will give you some information about the main parts of a tree. It’s the basics of tree biology. Hopefully, you can learn something about tree biology that you didn’t know before.

The Main Parts of the Tree

Trees have three main parts. These are the leaves, the trunk and the roots. The leaves are what we call the food factories of the tree. They contain chlorophyll. Chlorophyll facilitates photosynthesis and gives leaves their green color. During photosynthesis, leaves use the sun’s energy to convert carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and water from the soil into sugar and oxygen. The sugar is the tree’s food. It is either stored or used in the branches, trunk and roots. The oxygen is released into the atmosphere.

A tree’s roots, which are an important part of tree biology, absorb water and nutrients from the soil, store sugar and keep the tree upright in the ground. Every tree has lateral roots that branch into smaller and smaller roots that usually extend horizontally beyond the branch tips. Some trees have a tap root that reaches down as far as 15 feet with each root being covered with thousands of root hairs that make it easier to soak up water and dissolved minerals that come from the soil. You can easily say that the majority of the root system is located in the upper 12 to 18 inches of the soil. Why? That’s because the oxygen that roots require to function properly is the most abundant in that area.

The trunk, or stem, of the tree supports the crown. It also gives the tree its shape and strength. Did you know the trunk consists of four layers of tissue? Well, it does. These layers contain a network of tubes running between the roots and the leaves. They act as the central plumbing system for the tree. How? Well, the tubes carry water and minerals up from the roots all the way to the leaves. These same tubes also carry sugar down from the leaves to the branches, trunk and roots to make sure the tree is properly fed.

We hope that, by learning this bit of tree biology, that you can better understand your trees and take better care of them. If you are having any difficulties with your trees, we encourage you to contact us at Austin Tree Service. We can be reached at 512-341-8888 by phone or info@keepaustingreen.com by email. We are always happy to hear from you.