Matching Tree and Site, Part 1 – Adaptability and Acclimation

When you’re matching tree and site, you have to worry about some things. Next week, we’ll give you actual site considerations and logistics. This week, we’re going to talk about adaptability and acclimation. What are adaptability and acclimation?

Adaptability is the genetic ability of plants and other living organisms to adjust or accommodate to different environments while acclimation is the process by which plants and other living organisms adapt physiologically to a climate or environment different than their own. They work in conjunction with each other. One is genetic and one is physiological, but they do both deal with how a tree adjusts to a different environment.

The first thing you need to do when bringing new trees into your landscape is to consider your expectations. What purpose will your trees serve in your landscape? Are they there for privacy or beauty? How much maintenance are you willing to do? You should also decide what you don’t want from your trees. There are some things about trees you’ll want to consider when matching tree and site.


How fast does it grow? Very vigorous trees quickly fill their allotted space and provide shade and privacy in just a few years. They tend to require frequent pruning; however, and may have brittle limbs and short life spans. Trees that grow slowly usually live longer and require less pruning.


How tall and wide will the tree get? Consider this aspect carefully if you have limited space or dislike pruning. Plant a tree in an area that can accommodate its height and width. This seems simple, but many people don’t consider this as carefully as they should and they wind up with trees that are too big for the areas they set is aside for. You can always ask us before you plant a tree. We’re happy to help.


Is the tree adapted to your climate? It’s always best to get trees that are adapted to the climate as well as the sun, soil, and water conditions at the proposed planting site. You can have trees acclimatize and adapt to the area, but it’s much easier if the tree is already predisposed to the conditions of the area you are going to place it in. It will do much better.

Now, trees are amazing organisms. Make sure you get ones that are well-suited to your site. That will give the tree the best chance to survive and be a part of your landscape for a long time. While it’s true that many trees can adapt to a different climate, it’s not ideal. We try to suggest native trees whenever possible. They’re really your best bet. For more information, feel free to ask questions on our Facebook page. We’ll be happy to have someone answer them for you.


How to Select A Nursery Tree

Part of good tree care starts with selection of a good tree. When you’re at the nursery, you want to keep certain things in mind. Remember, there are advantages of selecting good quality nursery trees. A good quality tree is more likely to survive, establish more quickly and live longer in your landscape. Choosing a good quality tree at a nursery can reduce the likelihood of limb failure from structural defects. Be a smart buyer and evaluate your tree carefully.

Many arborists would consider a container-grown tree as their first choice. Although this nursery-grown tree might be a little more expensive, it has a very good survival rate with minimal care. The roots in the container are 100% intact and the tree has not been stressed by having been dug up from the ground. Container grown trees are usually smaller than balled & burlapped trees, which we’ll talk about in a bit. That’s a good thing because smaller is better to ensure that the tree can spread out its roots and get on with the business of growing once you plant it in your landscape at home.

Where there is less of a tree to feed, the roots can expend energy on growing themselves. By allowing the roots to grow, you’ll see a beautiful crown in the years to come. When shopping for nursery trees, you should be picky. Check out several nurseries, both large and small. You’ll want to pay attention to some factors.

With a balled & burlapped tree (B&B), you should carefully access the quality of roots before planting. These young trees were grown from seed in one location and then years later were dug up and wrapped with burlap prior to the season they were shipped to the nursery. In the process, some roots have been severed. If not sold the first season, roots will continue to grow and are forced into a circle under the burlap. They often girdle the trunk or become contorted or tangled. If you do want a B&B tree, make sure it’s a good one.

What should you look for in nursery trees?

Whether they’re container-grown or B&B, you should look for the following things:

  • Little to no scarring on the trunk from the limbs to the root flare,
  • Minimal dead branches throughout the crown (hopefully, there are none),
  • An overall healthy appearance – avoid a beat-up looking tree,
  • No blotches or holes on the leaves (these are usually caused by pests or disease),
  • A strong central trunk as the central feature. Avoid a double trunk. Remember that branches can be pruned over time to balance the appearance or the weight of the tree,
  • For B&B, the string or wire around the trunk is loose enough to dig your finger underneath it,
  • There are no obvious roots already circling the trunk at the soil level (gently examine with your fingers). For a B&B tree, check underneath the collar of the burlap/string. Prod it a bit with your finger to notice whether the trunk is smooth and flares out naturally without interruption.

Once you’ve selected your nursery tree, take care with the trunk of the tree as you move it around. It can take a little wear and tear, but you should avoid nicks and cuts and scraping with tools or hard surfaces. You’ll want to limit how much recovery and healing the tree will need to focus on so it can redirect its energy to the roots. You’ll also want to protect the tree from the wind on the ride home. It’s best to secure it in the back of a truck if you can to avoid any damage. The tree can handle being on its side for a bit if you must put it into an SUV or sedan. Make sure you bring a tarp so you can avoid messy cleanup later.

Now that you know what to look for in a tree at a nursery, we encourage you to go out and get a tree for yourself. If you still have questions, feel free to call us at 512-341-8888. We are happy to give you solid advice on choosing trees at local nurseries.

Famous Trees of Texas – Burnt Oak

The Burnt Oak is located near the east bank of the Salado Creek at a point midway between two of the most important early roads in Texas. These are the old Goliad Road and the famous Gonzales Road. This ancient live oak saw a lot of history during the Texas Revolution. We know it was witness to many of the events that took place during that difficult time.

Shortly after the first battle of the Texas Revolution ended at Gonzales on October 2, 1835, the newly-formed Texas army, led by Stephen F. Austin, left Gonzales and headed for San Antonio to drive General Prefecto de Cos and his Mexican troops out of Texas. Austin and his force of about 600 men camped on Salado Creek, which is just a few miles east of San Antonio. They were there on October 20th, waiting for reinforcements.

The Texas Army camp is believed to have been close to the Burnt Oak, which is less than a mile from the Old Gonzales Road. This is the route Austin and his men were most likely to have followed. While encamped at the Burnt Oak, the Texas Army had multiple skirmishes with Mexican patrols.

Beneath the spreading limbs of this tree, which towers over fifty feet and has a girth of twenty-two feet, one can almost smell the cooking fires and the sweat of the men and horses as they rushed to meet their foes in Texas’ struggle for Independence.

This tree bore witness to many things that we can only imagine. We learn about some of them in our history classes in this great state. If only the Burnt Oak could talk, what could it tell us of this fascinating period in Texas’ history? You can visit the Burnt Oak today. It’s located on the site of the former Pecan Valley Golf Course, near the thirteenth hole.

For more of Texas’ famous trees, stay tuned to our blog. We often update and educate you about them. If you have questions about your tree, please call us at 512-341-8888. We care about all trees at Austin Tree Service, Inc.


Nutrition for Trees

You have trees. You want them to have proper nutrition, but how do you make sure that happens? Well, first, you need a little bit of an understanding of a tree’s natural habitat and how it obtains its mineral nutrients. Trees are built to thrive in nature. They draw life from nutrient dense soil, plentiful water and interactions with wildlife. Growing trees in an urban environment may be a little difficult, but it is by no means impossible. People do it all the time.

To help with your gaps in knowledge, you should consider consulting with our certified arborist to develop a nutrient management program for your trees. You should also be willing to apply supplements as needed. We, at Austin Tree, can really help you decide what the best nutrition for your trees should be.

Fertility Management

A regular application of fertilizer might be necessary to ensure that your trees have adequate nutrition. Fertilizers may be natural or synthetic. However, they must aim to provide trees with proper nutrients. The common objectives of fertilization should be:

  • To overcome a visible nutrient deficiency,
  • To eliminate a deficiency that’s not obviously visible but that was detected through soil or foliar analysis,
  • To increase vegetative growth, flowering or fruiting,
  • And to increase the vitality of the plant.

Fertilizer and Soil pH Levels

Most professional arborist practice ‘prescription fertilization’, which means that they only apply nutrients that are found to be deficient. Why? Liberal fertilization can ruin your soil’s pH balance. That is not good for your tree at all. An unbalanced pH will affect the availability of many nutrients. We know that nutrients are vital to a tree’s health, but they should never be added if they compromise your soil’s pH levels. To avoid this problem, measure your soil’s pH level before you apply fertilizer or consult us.

Measuring pH Levels

The pH scale measures how acidic or basic a substance is. It ranges from 0 to 14 with 7 being the neutral value. A pH level less than 7 is acidic, while a pH greater than 7 is basic. Homeowners can take a soil sample and send it to their local university cooperative extension service. Your best bet is to call us to perform a soil test. (You can visit this website to learn how to take a soil sample.) We can make custom recommendations based on the results of the soil sample analysis. Please note that pH levels can change over time, so be sure to conduct follow-up tests and adjust your soil accordingly.

Choosing a Fertilizer

Professional tree care services have access to slow-release fertilizers or can tell you where to get them. These are formulated for your tree’s health. Often, professional slow-release fertilizers reduce the need for repeated treatments over the course of the growing season. When choosing an appropriate fertilizer for trees, you need to have a fertilizer with the following qualities:

  • Features at least 50% slow-release,
  • Has a salt-index of less than 50 (salt is not good for tree health),
  • And does not have high ratios of potassium and phosphorous. Trees don’t like 10-10-10 fertilizers.

Fertilizer Application Methods

Once you’ve gone ahead and selected your fertilizer, it’s time to apply it. Fertilizer should be applied prior to soil prior to planting. As your tree grows, you’ll need to develop alternate methods for fertilizer application.

Surface Application – This works best when there’s no turf or ground cover over the roots. Liquid surface application can be made using a variety of spray equipment. To achieve an even distribution of fertilizer, a flooding tip or water breaker nozzle is preferred for surface application. Dry fertilizer can be used but needs to be watered-in. Do not use surface applications where runoff can occur.

Subsurface Application – This method requires you to drill holes 2-4” wide to a depth of 4-8” and pouring a specific amount of fertilizer into each hole. There should be at least 2 inches between the top of the fertilizer and the surface of the soil. The fertilizer should be equally distributed among all holes. Drill holes in a grid pattern, with holes spaced 12 to 36 inches apart. This method is labor-intensive and can damage roots so it shouldn’t be your go-to fertilizer application. Professional tree companies like us can provide a subsurface liquid injection with slow-release fertilizer as an alternative.

Foliar & Trunk Application – You can apply a fertilizer to foliage, or it can be injected directly into the tree. Foliar spray or trunk injections should not be your first course of action. They should be reserved for rare cases when soil application is not effective or practical to apply. This is an advanced application and is best done by a professional.

Application Amount

If you correctly select and apply a slow-release fertilizer formulated for your tree, you should only need to apply 2 to 4 pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet of application. The total application for a growing season should not exceed 6 pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet.

Now, we know that nutrition for trees is not an exact science, but an expert opinion can be invaluable. We hope you’ll trust us at Austin Tree Service to provide that expert opinion. We want to keep your trees healthy and well fed. Give us a call today at 512-341-8888.


Why is Proper Water Drainage Necessary to Protect Trees

You need proper water drainage. It’s necessary to protect your trees. Without good water drainage, a tree can slowly drown. It can take just a few days or maybe a few years, but it will happen. The tree without good water drainage will die from a lack of oxygen and nutrients. Waterlogged soils prevent aeration of plant roots and create susceptibility to diseases such as root rot. If you can correct your water drainage problems during lawn installation or tree planting, then you may just save your tree.

Percolation Test

Before you plant a tree, you should evaluate the proposed planting area by performing a percolation test. What’s that you may ask? Well, percolation refers to how quickly water drains through the soil. To test your lawn’s percolation, dig a few holes within the potential root area of the mature tree – generally inside of and just beyond the canopy of the tree. Measure the rate of water drainage. You should make the holes between 18 to 36 inches deep and 6 to 12 inches wide. About three holes will provide thorough evaluation of the site. Fill the holes with water and allow the water to completely drain out of the holes before refilling with water to the tops of the holes. Measure the water drainage every hour. Percolation at the rate of 1 to 2 inches per hour indicates good water drainage.

Soil Compaction

Lawns around new construction are often shallow and compacted from foot traffic and heavy equipment. You should amend your soil to improve tilth and water drainage by incorporating 1 to 2 inches of organic matter such as peat moss or compost into the top 4 to 6 inches of soil. Cultivate your soil prior to and after the addition of these amendments to facilitate mixing them with the existing soil. Organic matter provides both moisture retention and better water drainage through the creation of larger soil pores.

Drainage Chimney

When poor water drainage is due to a hardpan or impervious layer under your topsoil, drainage chimneys can correct the problem. With a posthole digger, dig 8 to 12 inches wide holes that are deep enough to break through the compacted layer into the porous soil. Fill the holes with gravel. The spacing of the drainage chimney is site-specific and depends on the degree of waterlogging you find. Begin with evenly spaced chimneys just outside the dripline of the tree. Add more drainage chimneys until you’ve corrected the problem.

French Drain

You can install a French drain to move water away from a low-lying area. You don’t want your trees to get waterlogged as this can lead to diseases such as root rot. Begin building the French drain within the dripline of your tree and dig deep enough to get below the root area. You will then excavate a trench leading away from the tree to a lower level, using a slope of 3 inches per 25 linear feet. The width of the trench should be at least 6 inches. You can put 4-inch-diameter permeable pipe in the bottom of the trench to help with water drainage. Then, fill the trench with gravel and rock.

Of course, we hope you don’t need to take extreme measures to ensure that your tree has proper water drainage. We encourage you to think before you plant and to know your soil and your situation. A tree has the best chance of surviving when its environment provides for proper water drainage naturally. If you need help in deciding where to plant your tree, we are happy to provide it. Give us a call at 512-341-8888 today for more information. We’re Austin Tree Service and we want all your trees to be healthy.

How to Care for your New Tree

Fall and winter are the best time to plant trees since they don’t suffer from transplant shock as much as summer planted trees. Trees need the opportunity to grow roots before being subjected to summer heat and dryness. In this blog post, we will attempt to outline the primary maintenance considerations for planting and growing trees.


During the first growing season, don’t fertilize with high nitrogen fertilizer. Use root stimulators (monthly during growing season) or slow release organic fertilizer at half the recommended rate. During the second growing season, fertilize 3-4 times a year using a slow release fertilizer.

Never use an herbicide containing fertilizer anywhere near the tree’s root system!


A properly dug and planted tree needs no pruning except to remove broken branches and growth faults (crossing branches and downward growing).

Lower branches should be left on the tree as long as possible. After the first year, no more than 1 whirl of limbs should be removed each year. The use of pruning paints (except on oak trees) is not recommended.

Watering and Mulching

Water the newly planted tree until the hole is soaked. This will saturate the roots. Water, as needed, for at least 18 months by placing a soaker hose around the base of the tree and slowly (several hours) saturate the area. Do not depend on a sprinkler system to do the job. Usually you need to water when the soil has dried to a depth of 4-6 inches. An easy way to test soil wetness is by probing with an 18-inch piece of iron rebar. If the rebar is wet or muddy, do not water. If the probe comes out dry or damp on the end, it’s time to water. During a hot, dry summer, check the soil every 4-5 days. It is equally important that you do not overwater a native or adapted tree as that could lead to disease.

Place mulch over the area of disturbed earth, leaving a few bare inches around the trunk.  Mulch helps soil retain moisture while also preventing soil compaction. Please keep lawnmowers, etc. away from the root area. During the first year, add mulch 3-4 times during the year.

These are some basic rules for how to care for your new tree. If you have any more questions, please contact our office at 512-341-8888. We are always ready to help you understand how to care for your new tree.

Practicing Water Conservation with Your Trees

You are environmentally conscious. You want to know how to practice water conservation while keeping your trees healthy. In this article, we’ll focus on how to water trees at all stages of their lives and give you tips for practicing water conservation.

Watering newly planted trees

When trees are first planted, most of their roots are located inside the original root ball. Therefore, the tree should be watered in a way that encourages growth outside of the root ball. The goal is to encourage the establishment of roots in the soil. So, with a newly planted tree, you should water the soil under the canopy. This will keep the root ball and the surrounding soil moist enough to boost healthy growth. In moderate climates, you should do this twice a week. You should increase to three times a week when the weather is hot and dry. In the case of a steady rain shower, you can count that as one day of watering. When rain occurs, it’s the best way for you to conserve water while still ensuring that the root ball gets the moisture it needs to grow.

Watering established trees

The growing season for trees is late spring to early summer. It can take two growing seasons for a tree to become fully established. Once this happens, a tree’s water requirements change. The tree needs less frequent watering. The technique to deliver the water is adjusted as well. For established trees, you will want to water in a circular motion around the dripline. The dripline is the wide band around the outer reaches of the canopy. An established tree should be watered several feet around its dripline to ensure that roots, which have grown past the dripline at this point, are getting the water that they need.

When it comes to water conservation while irrigating established trees, here are two valuable tips:

  1. Soak the entire area under the canopy. Allowing the water to soak deep into the soil near the roots is preferable to spraying the surface. Soaking the soil when watering trees will reduce the frequency of watering the trees.
  2. Avoid watering the tree trunk. Too much water on the trunk or the area directly adjacent to the trunk can increase the risks of tree rot and other diseases. Having a drip system installed can keep the water deep in the soil where it belongs – and it can deliver the preferred soaking method described above.

Water conservation when watering trees requires that you water smart, not often. It’s not hard to conserve water when you water trees. Follow our tips and you will be well on your way to doing just that. You can irrigate your trees with a low amount of water. It will keep them healthy and strong. For more information on water conservation, visit our blog. You can also call us at 512-341-8888 for more information.

How to Water a Tree

If you’re not wondering how to water a tree, we bet you probably should wonder. Watering trees is a very important process. Doing it right will help keep your trees alive for a long time. How you water a tree often depends on the tree’s age. We’ll give you some guidelines in this blog post. We hope they help you make smart decisions on watering your trees.

How to Water Newly Planted Trees

You must water a newly planted tree immediately after it’s been planted. All tree roots are in the root ball area. Until new roots grow into the soil of the planting site, water the original root ball area and just a little bit around it. The root ball area might dry out faster than the surrounding soil, so check the moisture in this area pretty regularly for the first month or two after planting.

How to Water Trees During the First Two Years

During the first couple of growing seasons, your newly planted tree is expending a lot of energy. It’s trying to establish new roots in the soil. Especially during the first few summers of your new tree’s life, you will want to water the tree regularly. You may also want to cover the tree with some wood-chip mulch. How often you water the tree will be an important indication of how well the tree survives the heat and potential drought. Deep watering is a good idea because it can help speed up root establishment. Deep watering a tree consists of keeping the soil moist down to a depth that includes all its roots.

How Much Should You Water Your Trees and When

Too little or too much water is not good for a tree. Overwatering is a common tree care mistake. Moist is different than soggy – not many people know the difference. A damp soil that dries for a short period will allow adequate oxygen to permeate the soil. As a general rule, your soil should be moist. If you water a tree for 30 seconds with a steady stream of water from a garden hose with a diffuser nozzle, then that should be sufficient for seedlings. Mulching is also a key factor in keeping moisture in the soil.

You can check your soil’s moisture by using a garden trowel and inserting it into the ground to a depth of 2”. Then, you can move the blade back and forth to create a small narrow trench. Then touch the soil with your fingers. If it is moist to the touch, your trees don’t need water.

How to Water Your Tree After the First Two Years of Its Life

After your tree has been in your yard for two years, the roots will be established. This will allow your tree to withstand a wide variety of conditions on its own because it has a proper root structure. You will not need to water your trees as often after it has matured to this point.

If you have any questions on how to water a tree, please contact us at Austin Tree Service. We are happy to help you with your tree questions. You can also visit our Facebook Page at We look forward to hearing from you.

What’s the Difference Between a Deciduous and an Evergreen Tree

Deciduous and evergreen are two opposite types of trees. They are categorized by the pattern and seasonality of their foliage growth. Plants between deciduous and evergreen are known as semi-deciduous trees. They have characteristics of both. In this article, we’ll tell you the main differences between an evergreen and a deciduous tree.

What are deciduous trees?

Deciduous is a term that refers to trees which seasonally shed their unnecessary parts, such as leaves, from their structure. Most deciduous trees are broad leaf trees. Because of the structure of the leaves and the pattern of leaf arrangement, the effectiveness of photosynthesis is very high in deciduous trees. Unfortunately, deciduous trees have both positive and negative aspects to them. Since they shed their leaves seasonally (during autumn and winter usually), they are very susceptible to wind and other winter weather conditions.

The falling of the leaves helps them prepare for winter conditions. It ensures better survival in winter as well as high water conservation and protection against predatory actions. Deciduous tree characteristics are observable in many woody trees like oak and maple. There are two characteristic deciduous forests where the majority of trees shed their foliage at the end of their typical growing season. These are temperate deciduous forests and tropical (and subtropical) deciduous forests. Trees in temperate deciduous forests are sensitive to the seasonal temperature variations whereas the tropical deciduous trees respond to seasonal rainforest patterns.

What are evergreen trees?

The evergreen tree is a complete contrast to the deciduous tree. As the name implies, an evergreen’s foliage remains on the tree throughout the entire year. There is no seasonal leaf shedding. Evergreen plants have a huge deviation within them. They include most conifers and angiosperms such as hemlock, cycads, and eucalyptus trees.

This does not mean that evergreens never shed their foliage. Old leaves of evergreen trees are replaced by new growth as they age. Evergreen trees favor warm, temperate climates. Many tropical rainforests are considered evergreens.

What are the differences between a deciduous and an evergreen tree?

There are several important differences between a deciduous and an evergreen tree. We will list them for you here:

  • Deciduous and evergreen trees are opposite each other. Deciduous trees shed their leaves seasonally and evergreen trees keep their foliage throughout the year.
  • Deciduous trees are adapted to tolerate cold and dry weather conditions by shedding their leaves while evergreens do not.
  • Evergreens can survive with low soil nutrients. A huge portion of internal nutrients is removed during the defoliation of deciduous trees.
  • Nutrient requirements of evergreens are somewhat higher than those of deciduous trees during bad weather because of the need for foliage maintenance. In deciduous trees, it is high after harsh weather when the foliage is renewed.
  • Deciduous trees are more sensitive to temperature and rain fall than evergreen trees.

We hope that this article has helped you to better understand deciduous and evergreen trees, especially their differences. If you have questions on what types of trees you have, please contact us at 512-341-8888. We’ll be very happy to help you determine whether you have deciduous or evergreen trees.

How To Identify a Tree, Part 2

Last week, we gave you an introduction into how to identify a tree. This week we continue with that information, so you’ll know how to identify a tree without any problems. We were working on leaves and needles. Let’s continue.

Leaves (Continued)

Leaves have many distinguishing characteristics. They are, in essence, a study in and of themselves.

Leaf Base

The leaf base is important to know about when identifying a tree because leaves that are closely related to each other will show similar characteristics in their leaf bases. For example, elms have leaves with a characteristic asymmetrical base. The leaf base does not equally meet the leaf stalk.

Leaf Texture

Leaves can be dull, glossy or hairy. Look at both sides of the leaf to see whether the hairs cover the whole leaf or just one side.

Leaf Color

Leaf color is most important if the leaves change color before they fall off. In Texas, we don’t have an autumn change per se, so this may not be the best indicator of which type of tree you are looking at. However, some trees turn vivid colors before they go brown and fall off the tree. If you can find out which ones do that, then you’re well on your way to identifying the tree.

If the tree has needles or scales, then it’s a conifer. You can tell a lot by whether they are needles or scales. Most conifers have the needles or scales on the tree all year round that you can use for identification. We’re not sure that there are many conifers in Texas, but it’s important to note in case you’re in other parts of the country or world and looking at trees.


Many trees flower at a particular time of year. When they are present, they can be very helpful in tree identification.

Tree Reproduction

Trees have different strategies when it comes to reproduction. Broadleaf trees, for example, have flowers that contain the reproductive organs and conifers have cones for reproduction.

  • Hermaphroditic trees, such as cherries, produce flowers with both male and female parts.
  • Unisexual trees include birches and have male and female parts on separate flowers.
  • Monoecious trees, such as alder, have separate male and female flowers on the same tree.
  • Dioecious trees, like holly and yew, have separate male and female trees entirely.

Flowers arrangement

Flowers occur in a variety of shapes, sizes and arrangements.

  • Solitary flowers are single flowers appearing by themselves on different parts of the tree.
  • Clusters are many small flowers that form together in large branched groups such as in the elder tree.
  • Catkins are dense, hanging spikes of tiny inconspicuous flowers such as those of the willow tree.


Some flowers are so tiny that you have to be up close to see them. Male and female flowers can also look very different from each other on the same tree. A flower’s color can vary. For some species, however, they can be a defining feature. Apple and blackthorn flowers are usually white while catkins are almost always yellow-green. Ash flowers are a deep purple-red.

Fruits and Seeds

Just like flowers, fruits and seeds tend to appear at certain times of the year. They can be great identifiers for a tree. They vary in shape, appearance and size from hard nuts to berries. You’ll want to look at the color and feel the texture of the fruit. Is the outer surface smooth, hairy, prickly, rough or papery? Is it soft, hard or dry? You may want to open up the fruit to identify a tree. What do the seeds look like inside?

Fruits of Broadleaf Trees

They vary greatly and include:

  • Samaras are papery winged fruits. The wings can be in pairs (field maple and sycamore) or single (hornbeam).
  • Nuts are usually dry and woody. Some are unmistakable like the shiny brown sweet chestnuts inside prickly casings.
  • Catkins are long and dangly and become fluffy masses of seeds in summer. They are often found on willows and birches.
  • Berries are soft and juicy fruits that contain several seeds.
  • Stone fruits have a fleshy exterior and a single stone inside like plums do.
  • Apples or pears are larger, fleshy fruits with many seeds inside.
  • Capsules are seeds contained inside capsules of varying shapes and colors like the bright pink capsules of spindle which split open to reveal bright orange seeds.
  • Cones occur in trees like the alder. They can be dry and woody and appear on the tree all year long.

Leaf Buds and Twigs

It can be hard to identify a tree, especially in winter. Leafs buds and twigs can provide some identifying clues.

Leaf Bud Arrangement and Position

Leaf buds are usually present on twigs throughout the winter. When they are at the end of the twig, they are called terminal buds. These are often the largest buds. Those growing along the twig are lateral buds and can have any one of three arrangements.

  • Alternate occur in pairs arranged in turn on opposite sides of the stem.
  • Opposite occur in pairs placed directly on either side of the stem.
  • Spiral buds whorl alternately around the stem.

How the buds are held on the twig also provide a subtle clue. For example, willow buds are tightly pressed against the twig whereas those of oak and beech stick out at a right angle from the twig.

Leaf Bud Shape and Appearance

Some trees have distinctively shaped buds. Many others have oval shaped buds. You may need to use something else to figure out what kind of tree it is. Trees with characteristic buds include beech with its sharply pointed straight-sided buds and hose chestnut with red sticky buds. Oaks, elms and birches all have small scales which protect the bud inside.

Twigs Appearance and Texture

To identify a tree by its twigs, you should look at the twig texture and determine if it’s either smooth or hairy. Spines could indicate you’re looking at a blackthorn. If they are corky ribs, you may be looking at an alder. Twig color can be subjective but there are a few trees where it is a key feature, particularly on new growth. There are a few species where color can help identification including the red of dogwood, the greens and yellows of willows and dark purple-black of blackthorn. Alder buckthorn twigs have orange markings called lenticels.

As you can see from both of our articles on how to identify a tree, there are many ways to identify a tree. Trees have many distinguishing characteristics. It takes a sharp eye and a little know-how to identify a tree. With practice, you can learn to do it. Have questions about your trees? Please give us a call at 512-341-8888. We’re Austin Tree Service and we’re happy to help you with your trees.