Drone Use in Urban Forestry

Drone Use in Urban Forestry

“The unique bird’s eye perspective and the ability to see fine details high up in the tree are impressive. However, there are serious limitations both technological and legal.” – Ellyn Shea, Arborist and Consultant

By Jeremy Priest

The use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), or “drones”, has grown rapidly in popularity over the past few years such that many larger organizations utilize them for various tasks, the most common of which is marketing and photography. Companies are able to create astonishing views that were previously very limited. Helicopters and planes are currently used to provide services from high quality aerial imagery to advanced LiDAR for use in industries such as commercial forestry, but never has it been possible to see bird’s eye level views so easily and at such close range. Safely obtaining that close range through lightweight copter-style drones, which are typically under the small Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (sUAV) classification by the Federal Aviation Administration, has begun to allow imagery to be used for more detail focused practices such as tree inspection and assessment.

However, UAVs are not the ultimate technological tool that many believed them to be. Amazon and other companies are researching the use of drones for deliveries, but an article in Fortune in 2017 noted that commercial deliveries were a long way off and even by 2020 the use of commercial drones for that purpose would be less than 1%. An important step to implementing drone use in various industries is understanding FAA regulations regarding Unmanned Aerial Systems (the term UAS represents the entire system needed to operate a UAV, which includes the controller and any other devices such as smart phone). These regulations are designed to keep everyone safe, from bystanders on the ground to other aircraft using the airspace, because there are real hazards posed by drones even though they are relatively small and commonly available. Organizations interested in utilizing drones should make themselves aware of these restrictions by visiting the FAA’s website.

Use in Urban Forestry

Drones are capable of improving the efficiency of some forestry work when conducted for a specific purpose and with a specific plan; the articles at the bottom of the page detail a few specific cases. These are some of the possible applications for this technology by arborilogical professionals :

  • Tree Assessment: Drones are capable of photographing multiple trees at once and from a different perspectives than ground level assessments. Some drones can travel 35 mph or more which enables them to fly an entire city block taking photos of each tree in a matter of minutes. When it comes to using drones as an alternative to climbing trees the matter is often contested by arborists as even a very good camera on a drone cannot see and determine defects as well as a climber. Drones can however be used as a supplement or as a lower level assessment, such as determining if any trees have obvious and major defects such as dead branches. The information from such assessments can then be acted on and used to help with climber safety.

    Drone aerial imagery of tree canopy

    A sycamore tree with dead limbs in the upper canopy.

  • Inventory: The City of Arlington recently utilized a UAV to conduct inventory of urban trees. The drone used for this inventory had a GPS receiver, altitude sensor, camera gimbal, a camera capable of taking high resolution images, and a top speed near 30 mph. In this case multiple individual photographs of each tree were taken which were used to approximate basic tree data without the need to walk to each tree. The locations, genus or species level identification, height, and crown diameters were able to be approximated from drone data. Location of each tree was determined using the precise GPS coordinates in the attributes of each photo. The individual photo locations can be viewed on any computer; however, specialized software is required to rapidly display each photo as a map point. As the coordinates of the drone are stored in the attributes and not the object being photographed, it was necessary to take photos directly over the tree or apply a correction to the photo points in the software. The points representing each tree were then linked to the tree photo to enable quick analysis of the photo.

    Overhead tree image

    An aerial photo of a tree that could be uploaded to tree inventory software.

    From each photo genus or species level data could be approximated, although in some cases it was necessary to field check the ID. Tree height can be approximated using the UAV’s altitude sensor, although accuracy is lower than other methods of height estimation. The photo attributes store the altitude of the drone when the picture is taken, and the tracking software provided by the drone’s mobile app also depicts UAV altitude, so by flying even with the top of the tree’s canopy it is possible to approximate tree height. Crown diameter can be approximated using measurement tools in the mapping software.Overall, the drone was found to be most useful in determining tree locations and for providing individual tree photos for the inventory. Due to the high speed of the drone and the efficiency of entering data at a desktop computer afterwards, areas could be completed much faster compared to an individual walking to each tree and recording data on a field computer. For low level inventories that do not require trunk diameter the use of drones is suitable and cost effective; however, drones may be better utilized as a supplement for providing photographs and tree coordinates when additional, or higher accuracy, data must be collected at each tree.

  • Marketing: Drone footage is impressive and commonly found in promotional videos or material. This is no less true for the arboricultural profession and companies can easily apply the advantages of aerial photography when demonstrating tree removal or climbing abilities. There are a number of software packages that enable the application of drone footage to create videos or still images to catch the eye of consumers.
  • Aerial Imagery: Drones enable aerial imagery similar to what is viewed in Google Earth without the expense of purchasing aerial coverage datasets or relying on lower quality imagery that has been taken sometime in the past. Drones can provide insight into an area being targeted for large scale tree planting, for example, by providing accurate and up to date imagery of a specific area. Although free aerial imagery has dramatically improved in the past decade to enable detailed views of an area, it is still limited quality and there is little way to control the season being viewed in such aerial imagery. In some cases it is advantageous to have winter imagery with leaves off the tree, such as being able to view understory trees, sidewalks, or other features in the target area. In most forestry related uses, having leaves on during spring to summer provides the best depiction of the urban forest for such purposes as planning and development, or tree cover assessments.

    An example of image overlay in Google Earth

    After adding an image overlay to Google Earth, the photo can be rotated and positioned to align with existing features to create new imagery.

    Aerial imagery can be created by taking downward orientated photographs from a gimbal enabled drone. These images can then be displayed in ArcMap or Google Earth. For ease of use, it is best to follow a set pattern when taking photos and the camera should be aligned so that the axes run north-south and east-west. In ArcMap, the process involves importing the photos and using the Georeferencing Toolbar to locate control points in existing aerial imagery (i.e. a manhole cover or lightpole visible in both the drone photo and basemap aerial imagery could be used to align the new photo). The Auto-Assign Points feature in ArcMap can then be utilized to align other drone photos and create a mesh, so it is important to take photos with some overlap. To add photos to Google Earth, use the Image Overlay tool. Then right click the image layer and open the properties to drag the corners of the photo to match existing imagery. The process is simpler in Google Earth, but much more time consuming for multiple photos.

Although the author and the Cross Timbers Urban Forestry Council have made every effort to ensure that the information in this article is correct, the author and council do not assume and hereby disclaim any liability to any party for any loss, damage, or disruption caused by errors or omissions, whether such errors or omissions result from negligence, accident, or any other cause.

Black Walnut Tree

Black Walnut Tree

Unique Trees of North Texas:

Black Walnut

(Juglans nigra)

By Jeremy Priest

The next tree in our unique tree series is native from South Dakota to Florida and follows the eastern edge of the Cross Timber region to Central Texas. Black walnut (Juglans nigra) has been a prized tree for historic farmland and ranches. This is due in part to valuable walnuts and characteristic heartwood of the tree, but also for it’s indication of soil quality. Black walnut is typically found on deep, rich soils and the wood of this tree is hardy and has beautiful, highly valued grain. The large walnuts produced by this species are difficult to extract, but highly rewarding.

Black walnut full leaf and walnut fruit

Black walnut leaf and fruit

Black walnut is most likely be confused with pecan as it is in the same family and may occur in similar sites. It’s plantation usage was not nearly as popular as pecan in North Texas, but individuals can sometimes be found near old pecan plantations. Black walnut can be distinguished as it contains more leaflets than pecan and the leaf is larger: 12-24 inches long. Chinese pistache has similar leaves, although the leaflets on pistache have smooth margins while black walnut typically has fine serration. This species is most quickly identified by it’s fruit. Walnuts appear dark brown and furrowed after the outer layer is removed, but are covered by a thick, green husk with almost sandpaper like texture when they are immature on the tree. As the fruit matures, the outer husk changes color to nearly black and the husk is absorbed into surrounding soil. Black walnut is an allelopath, which means that it produces chemicals toxic to most other plants. This natural herbicide is concentrated in the husk surrounding the walnut and helps reduce competition for the young seedling. The toxin is not strong enough to harm most trees, but could impact sensitive garden plants and some conifers, especially under a fully mature tree. For more information on juglone toxicity click here.

As evidenced by the naturally allelopathic seeds, black walnut needs full sun when young, and the tree also requires adequate water in well-drained soil. Although the native black walnut prefers a lower pH than typically found in the cross timbers (< 7.5), Texas A&M produces a Texas variety of little walnut (Juglans microcarpa) which is better suited to high pH soils. Black walnut can be somewhat slow growing, except when planted in ideal conditions. Black walnut is similar to post oak in that it produces deep roots and is not easily transplanted; however, the demand for black walnut seedlings is high enough that nurseries do produce seedlings available to the public, mostly in bare root form.

The state champion black walnut in Bowie County (Northeast Texas) is 56 inches in diameter and 80 feet tall with 177 feet of spread. Extremely large black walnut are possible in North Central Texas as one Dallas County specimen is 65 feet tall with a 69 foot spread. However, most individuals could be expected to reach 40 feet in height and 30-45 feet in width. Trees mature quickly and nut production can begin as early as 6 years, although large crops are not likely until trees are around 20 years old.

2018 North Texas Conference

2018 North Texas Conference

This year’s North Central Texas Urban Forestry Conference focused on Diversity. The expert presenters gave us new ways to look at structural soil and root zone protection, storm water management, pest analysis and management, and a look at exciting tree species choices. This conference marked the first time the Cross Timbers Urban Forestry Council partnered with the North East Texas Nursery Growers Association, which allowed attendees to access the trade show conveniently.

The first presenter was Dr. Kelby Fite and he gave us a review of soil studies by Bartlett. Among many topics he explained the rapid soil improving effect of fine roots, which are able to add organic matter into depths of the soil. Also, the use of high quality, smaller planting stock in areas with limited soil space may allow a longer timeframe before rooting space becomes an issue. He later discussed the importance of not only selecting high quality trees, but techniques to improve long term root structure. He was followed by Dr. Fouad Jaber’s discussion of storm water management utilizing trees, bioswales, and bioretention areas. Some advances in storm water management include the use of green roofs, even in downtown Dallas where a highway overpass is now a park with trees in spite of the fact that much of the soil is no more than a few inches thick. Trees have potential to control erosion with roots while also uptaking water and reducing the burden on public storm water control. A very interesting point he made concerned the use of bioretention in everyday settings such as home yards. By simply creating depressed areas in the soil, “bonus” water can retained and absorbed into the soil. Features and designs like these serve an important role in slowing water, forcing soil absorption, and stopping pollutants from flowing to rivers and harming crucial water bodies.

If you give trees large quantities of uncompacted soil, things work out pretty well.  -Dr. Kelby Fite

One of the presenters, Dr. David Creech, was unfortunately unable to attend. However, the Director of Peckerwood Gardens was able to take over the presentation on new and diverse tree species that could be planted in Texas. We thank Adam Black for being able to make it on short notice. Dr. Mike Merchant and Dr. Kevin Ong were the final presenters covering current urban forestry pest issues and methodology for identifying those pests, respectively. Crape myrtle bark scale is a relatively new pest to North Texas, but there are successful chemical control methods which were discussed. The future of ash trees in Texas is unfortunately less certain due to devastating impact of EAB; however, there are methods for saving trees and lessening the impact of a pest that will almost certainly continue to spread throughout the U.S. The good news is that Texas has only about 2% ash trees and there are successful treatments for saving individual trees. Dr. Ong discussed the logic behind identifying patterns and issues with pests in trees that may not always be clearly and easily determined.

Click here for Adam Black’s presentation on Diversifying Tree Choices

Click here for Dr. Kevin Ong’s presentation on Landscape Problems

Click here for Dr. Mike Merchant’s presentation on Emerging Pests

Click here for Dr. Fouad Jaber’s presentation on Stormwater Management

Click here for Dr. Kelby Fite’s presentation on Avoiding Root Defects; Click here for Dr. Fite’s presentation on urban tree root protection, such as use of structural soils, titled “There are Many Ways to Walk By Trees”

We also want to thank all of our sponsors not only for supporting the conference, but also for attending the presentations. Our 2018 sponsors were Southwest Wholesale Nursery, Environmental Design & Davey, Arbor Masters, Minick Materials, Site One Landscape Supply, BWI, Arbor Stakes, and ISA Texas. We hope to continue to provide education beneficial to all in our industry.

There were over 200 participants and the conference was completely sold out, so we thank you for making this conference a success and we will strive to make next year’s conference even better. The presentation room was comfortable, and the weather was exceptional if you had a chance to walk along the water out front. We hope that the change in venue was a positive experience overall and we hope to offer more advantages to our attendees in the future. If you would like to participate in the planning of the 2019 conference, please contact Laura Miller.

Preventing Theft of Landscape Equipment

Preventing Theft of Landscape Equipment

Laura M. Miller, Tarrant County Extension Agent Commercial Horticulture

The theft of landscape equipment is often thought of as a crime of opportunity.  Equipment is outdoors, there is no one around, or at least no one who is paying attention, and without much planning a would-be thief can easily grab an easily transportable item that can easily be sold or pawned.

While this is clearly larceny, defined in the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) as the unlawful taking, carrying, leading or riding away (which was probably originally mostly about horses but could now refer to riding mowers) of property from the possession, or constructive possession of another person, it doesn’t include any other crimes such as burglary or even trespass.  This can result in law enforcement agencies tending to prioritize other types of crimes that both they and the public see as more significant.

A fence destroyed by thieves stealing equipment.

Large equipment is still at risk. Thieves can go through anything with enough time.

But what if the piece of equipment was 40 feet long by 13 feet high and weighed in at around 75,000 lbs. with an estimated value of $370,000?  That’s what went missing from the City of Fort Worth Rolling Hills compound the last weekend of October 2017 when a Morbark tub grinder was taken from a fenced area.  While the tub grinder was the largest and most expensive piece of equipment taken, Forestry Crew Leader Will Pemberton reports that after a 20 plus year period with no significant losses of equipment to theft, the compound was broken into five times between April and December of 2017. In addition to the giant tub grinder, on different occasions thieves cut through fences and took leaf blowers, string trimmers, chain saws, tools, and even a 4-ton pallet jack.  Items were taken from vehicles and from buildings, and the previously mentioned fences along with locks and toolboxes were damaged.

These thefts occurred on weekends and no one was at the worksite, but two employees of Outdoor Inspirations Lawn and Landscape in Snellville, GA were on the job in April when they noticed someone trying to open the door of an enclosed truck.  The thwarted thief fired four rounds at them before leaving empty handed.  This serious threat to employee safety should make everyone take landscape equipment theft a little more seriously.

Steps to Safeguard Equipment and Employees:

  • Keep an accurate inventory. For each piece of equipment, take a photo and record:
    • Serial or VIN number—if none exists, engrave a number
    • Make and Model
    • Date and location of purchase
    • Warranty information
    • Authorized users
  • Use security lighting, fencing, and signage. Under Texas Penal Code § 30.05 the definition of criminal trespass is more complex than the simple notion of being on someone else’s land. One way to commit the offense is to enter upon another’s property even though one has notice that the entry is forbidden. Notice can be given fence or other enclosure obviously designed to exclude intruders, or in the form of sign(s) posted on the property or at the entrance to the building, reasonably likely to be noticed, indicating that entry is forbidden. Readily visible purple paint marks no less than eight inches in length and one inch in width and placed 3-5 ft. from the ground on trees or posts spaced no more than 100 feet apart can also be used.  Criminal trespass is normally a Class B misdemeanor with a fine up to $2,000 and a jail term up to 180 days.  Security lighting isn’t notification, but it makes it easier to see those signs.
  • Store as much as possible inside a building. That makes it less visible to those opportunistic passersby. It also means that anyone who enters the building intending to steal is committing the crime of burglary before taking anything.  Remove batteries from battery operated equipment and recharge or store them separately from the equipment they power.  Have visible, designated spots for everything so that missing items are immediately noticiable.
  • Have employees wear uniforms. Uniforms make it easy to spot a person who is out of place.
  • Have equipment wear uniforms. Steve McLaughlin of Greenscape in Fort Worth paints every item from a 6-inch screwdriver to 6-foot trailer with Greenscape’s signature green and yellow stripes.  While a little spray paint won’t necessarily prevent theft, it does make stolen items easy to identify.

If it has wheels, use extra caution, because thieves will make them roll.  According to the FBI’s National Crime Information Center,  43% of equipment thefts are riding mowers or garden tractors, with an additional 17% in the loader category.  If a thief can steal something that can be used to steal something else, it is especially valuable.  Front end loaders are often stolen so that they can be used to steal ATM machines.  Derek Whisenand at Whiz-Q Stone in Fort Worth has experience with this unfortunate occurrence.  Trailers, especially fully loaded landscape trailers, can also make for extremely efficient thievery.  Trailer hitch locks are relatively inexpensive and effective.  GPS tracking devices are becoming as widely available and inexpensive as trailer hitch locks.  Because many lots of equipment comes with generic keys, including tub grinders, consider rekeying or adding and additional level of security for ignition.

Post Oak in the Cross Timbers

Post Oak in the Cross Timbers

The Post Oak’s “Roll” in the Cross Timbers Region

By Melinda Adams The post oak got its name from early settlers who commonly used the decay resistant wood for fence posts. Post oak takes several forms though out its range but the tree we are most familiar with is an upright majestic shade tree. Its twisted and knarled branches make it one of the most prominent deciduous trees in the winter landscape. Post oak leaves are five lobed and somewhat resemble a crucifix. They are among the last trees to leaf out in the spring and one of the earliest to stop growing, which contribute to their slow growth rate. The average post oak takes more than ten years to grow 2” in trunk diameter. However, it becomes a dominant species on poor sites due to its drought resistance. The cross timbers consisted of upland forests of drought resistant, slow growing trees, that cut through sections of the prairie from Central Texas, Oklahoma and into southern Kansas. Fort Worth is flanked with the Eastern and the Western Cross Timbers. The drought resistant post oak is a dominant species in both, but in the more arid sandier Western Cross Timbers they are closer together, smaller and slower growing. Reportedly, the post oak will not begin to bear acorns until it is about 25 years old. Though acorn production is sparser than other oaks, they are more important to wildlife because they are higher in fatty acids. The University of Arkansas Tree-Ring Laboratory has been conducting research in the Cross Timbers for over thirty years. They have found thousands of post oaks between 200 and 400 years old in all three states. The oldest are usually found on sandy soils or on steep rocky terrain. The height of the post oak is rarely over 100’, or greater than 48” in diameter and the largest recorded post oak is 117’ tall and 52” in diameter. However, in its extreme southern range it often takes the form of a small tree seldom taller than 40 feet. The oldest post oak ever documented in the cross timbers is over 400 years old, but is only 20 feet tall.

A large post oak tree

Post Oak

The gently rolling native grasses of the Fort Worth Prairie once stood between the two Cross Timbers. Settlers wrote of stark transitions from the prairies to the forests, describing them as “walls of woods”. Post oaks invaded the Fort Worth Prairie about the same time we did. Through the suppression of fire, agriculture, and ranching, the abrupt transition has been blurred by an invasion of woody species into the grassland. Many groups of post oaks and black jack oaks grow in Fort Worth where there was once only prairie or savanna. As the oaks matured, their canopies closed and they shaded out the native grasses reducing the fire fuel load. Post oak may have been well suited to survive the rigors of the Cross Timbers or an effective opportunist at invading the prairie. However, it has not faired as well in modern urban developments. Post oak cannot tolerate root disturbance. The tree grows so slowly it is unable to heal torn and ripped roots before they decay. Many post oaks die in patches without apparent cause. Dr. Dave Appel, Associate Professor of Plant Pathology and Microbiology at Texas A&M University, has conducted some interesting studies on post oak decline. He discovered that much had to do with the depth to hardpan. Hardpan is an underground impermeable layer that is associated with water table depth. Since Cross Timbers post oaks grow under arid conditions in well-drained soils, trees over shallower hardpans have water that is more available during prolonged droughts. Trees less than a few hundred feet away that have a deeper hardpan may not be able to survive. Dr. Appel also found just the opposite was true in urban areas. Post oak is one of the least tolerant species to flooding. Post oaks over shallower hardpans will be more susceptible to over watering than those over deeper hardpans. A new water loving homeowner, a new irrigation system, or a recent change in drainage patterns can be enough to tip the scale. Post oak death due to over watering will have similar symptoms of trees with other types of root damage. Tips of branches will die back causing an abundance of epical sprouting (sprouting of small twigs along trunk and/or major limbs). Trees with root damage often take several years to die. As the tree consumes its starch reserve, it will produce fewer and smaller leafs while branches will continue to die back. As the tree uses up the last of its energy reserve, death can appear to happen suddenly after a flush of growth in the spring or acorn production in the fall.

Post oak trees in a park

Post oaks provide shade and a view of the past

You are fortunate indeed if you have a post oak in your yard. Because of their slow growth rate and their difficulty surviving transplanting you will never find one at a nursery. Your tree successfully took hold in the arid grassland or cross timbers and grew slowly and steadily. It was one of the lucky few that survived construction and it provides an abundance of shade for you and food for urban wildlife. If you are lucky enough to have a post oak under your care, like a cactus, it will be healthier if you simply ignore it. Don’t over prune it or feed it, and avoid putting flowerbeds or driveways under the canopy where you will disturb its roots. Just enjoy its beauty and its shade. When your neighbor’s exotic imported trees are wilting in the hot Texas sun, you’ll be as happy as your post oak with your reduced water and electric bill.

Texas Persimmon Tree

Texas Persimmon Tree

Unique Trees of North Texas:


Texas Persimmon


(Diospyros texana)

Texas persimmon in winter

Texas persimmon in winter

By David Coke and Gene Gehring

The Texas persimmon (aka Mexican persimmon, black persimmon, or Chapote Negro) is not to be confused with common persimmon (Diospyros virginiana) which has larger fruit, a single stem, and is taller with rougher bark. Texas persimmon looks more like crapemyrtle when older, and is usually multi-stemmed with smooth bark.


This tree’s range is primarily in the southern half of Texas and into Mexico, particularly southwest of the Colorado River. Its native range does not extend into the upper Gulf Coast, north Texas, or far west Texas. It likes dry, rocky areas and doesn’t like “wet feet”. Planting in a yard that gets regular watering can make for an unhappy Texas Persimmon; however, this native understory tree is able to withstand some shading from larger canopy trees. Texas persimmon has been successfully planted in North Texas and can live 30 to 50 years when conditions are right.


It can grow to 35 ft, but is typically about 10 ft high. It has a rounded crown and a smooth, gray bark. As the tree ages, the bark will start to peel away from the trunk and reveal lighter colors underneath. It is a deciduous tree but can be evergreen in its southern areas. It has 1” to 2” oval to oblong leaves which are leathery, fuzzy underneath, and curled over on the edges. They are dioecious (separate male and female plants) and since the species is not common in the area, both sexes would need to be planted to produce fruit. They flower starting in March or April and have small white flowers. That is followed by a small, black fruit which is about ¾” and is edible when ripe. It has lots of little seeds though making that difficult. The fruit it typically ripe in August. It is also used to make a black hair dye or dying leather. Be careful, it can stain the skin black as well. The fruit is enjoyed by a wide range of birds and mammals. Its tough, dark heart wood was used for tool handles.


The national and state champion Texas persimmon tree is located in Ulvalde County. That individual is 26 ft tall, has a 22 in diameter, and shades an area 31 ft across.

Selecting the Right Tree

Selecting the Right Tree

Remember to consider soil and surroundings when choosing your next tree

By Jeremy Priest

Most of us know about proper tree planting procedures (if not, see the resources below), but did you know that one of the most important aspects of a tree’s success starts with selecting the right tree? Many times a homeowner will plant a tree without considering two very important aspects: soil type and growing space. The first step in tree planting should be evaluating your soil conditions to determine some basic aspects.

  • Soil pH: The cross timbers region has a range of pH from acidic to alkaline so it’s important to choose species fitting your soil. The more eastern species such as redbud, maples, southern pines, and red oaks are examples of species that generally prefer acidic soils.

    Red oak located under power lines on a poor soil type

    This red oak is an example of a poor species & location match. The soil at this site is alkaline, which is not ideal for the species. The combination of soil and stress from regular pruning, due to the power lines overhead, lead to the tree’s decline.

    Mesquite, Gambel oak, and Monterrey oak are species that generally prefer alkaline soils. Many popular tree species promoted nationally are not adapted to moderately alkaline soils found in the cross timbers.

  • Soil water and drainage: Coarse texture soils such as sand and silt do not retain much moisture, so upland sites with these soils often have drought tolerant species such as post oak or blackjack oak. If you have this type of soil, and cannot regularly water, consider planting drought tolerant species such as desert willow or live oak. Fine texture soils like clay can retain water to the point of harming the tree. Species adapted to poorly drained soils include eastern redcedar, cedar elm, baldcypress, and bur oak.

Remember to consider pH, water availability, and drainage all together. The next step is to determine how much space is available and what the purpose of the tree will be.

  • Small/ornamental: These trees mostly provide beauty or natural screening from surroundings. Crapemyrtle, desert willow, and Eve’s necklace are examples of ornamental trees.
  • Medium-size: These trees are generally narrow, may not grow as tall as canopy species, and often retain lower branches suitable for providing natural screening. Examples include magnolia, eastern redcedar, or exoctic pines such as Afghan pine.
  • Large/canopy: These species are the dominant trees on the landscape, providing shade and most of the environmental benefits provided by urban trees. Examples include the oak species (live, bur, chinkapin, or post), pecan, native pines, elms, and ash. These trees have a large canopy spread and often provide food for wildlife.

Each size of tree can provide a mix of beauty, screening/visibility, or shade. Consider planting a mix of not only different species, but tree sizes as well. There are lots of resources available on the web to educate and make for a successful tree planting.


Additional Information

A number of sites provide useful information for tree selection; see the list below for help with selecting a tree and learning more about your soil type. This is not a comprehensive list, there are many recommended tree species lists for North Texas out there so please research other sites as well.

Tree Selection Guide – Provided by the Texas A&M Forest Service

U.S. Soil Map – Web Soil Survey from the USDA NRCS

Fort Worth Recommended Tree List – The City of Fort Worth Native & Adapted Tree List

Urban Forest Information Sheets – Helpful information provided by the Texas A&M Forest Service

Tree Planting and Care – How to plant a tree from the City of Arlington

Texas A&M Forest Service mobilizes Urban Forest Strike Teams

Texas A&M Forest Service mobilizes Urban Forest Strike Teams

"Initial findings in these areas show that Live oaks were particularly hard hit..."

Paul Johnson

Texas A&M Forest Service

Oct. 10 —Texas A&M Forest Service recently mobilized Urban Forest Strike Teams to the coastal Texas towns of Rockport, Fulton, Refugio and Victoria to assess damage to the trees on public property resulting from Hurricane Harvey.

Impacted communities deal with many post-storm issues, one of which includes destruction to public trees. To assess their storm-damaged trees, the communities called upon the expertise of Texas A&M Forest Service and the Urban Forest Strike Team.
A 10-member strike team spent a few days at each location sizing up the damage to the community trees, documenting types of damage, location and whether the tree posed a risk to the community. The trees were geospatially mapped and information was provided to the communities for use in applying for FEMA public assistance and debris removal funding.

“Initial findings in these areas show that Live oaks were particularly hard hit with damage most commonly occurring in the crowns of the trees and being fully or partially blown over,” said Paul Johnson, Texas A&M Forest Service Urban and Community Forestry Program Coordinator. “This type of damage was caused by high winds and small tornadoes associated with the storm.” In addition to winds, flooding may also cause damage to urban forests. Later this month, the Urban Forest Strike Team will survey Houston’s public trees and assess any damage that may have occurred there due to the inundation of water.

According to Johnson, flood damage may not be as apparent as a broken limb or blown-over tree. Flood damage could include tree roots being underwater and suffocated by both salt and fresh water for extended periods of time. Survivability may not be known for several years.

“Once we assess the Houston trees, we may need to monitor mortality for the next three to five years,” said Johnson. “That’s typical with trees when the roots have been saturated with salt water.”

Texas A&M Forest Service works with communities year-round to care for their urban forests – but especially in times of natural disaster. That’s how the Urban Forest Strike Team came to be.

The Urban Forest Strike Team program has been active for 10 years. It is a nationwide collaborative effort among state forestry agencies funded and trained through the U.S. Forest Service’s Urban and Community Forestry Program.

Since 2007, the Southern Urban Forest Strike Teams have been activated 10 times and have mobilized hundreds of team members across the South in response to disasters such as Hurricanes Gustav, Ike, Irene and Matthew, tornadoes in Georgia and Missouri and ice storms in Oklahoma, Arkansas and Kentucky.

Currently, strike teams have once again been activated and are responding not only to Hurricane Harvey in Texas, but are soon to deploy to the Florida coast where Hurricane Irma hit Sept. 10, 2017.

See the strike team in action in Rockport, Texas earlier this month at https://youtu.be/j671iaxQ6Zw and https://youtu.be/02g5ufAWi3Q.

Learn more about the Urban Forest Strike Team program at http://www.southernforests.org/urban/ufst.

  • Paul Johnson, U&C Forestry Program Coordinator, pjohnson@tfs.tamu.edu, 210-289-0815
  • Texas A&M Forest Service Communications, newsmedia@tfs.tamu.edu, 979-458-6606

This information is originally from the Texas Forest Service Newsletter http://tfsweb.tamu.edu/subscribe.

A TFS worker surveys damage from severe weather
Anacacho Orchid Tree

Anacacho Orchid Tree

Unique Trees of North Texas:  Anacacho Orchid Tree (Bauhinia lunarioides)

The Anacacho Orchid Tree is a unique tree not seen often in the North Texas area. It is a small tree in the Fabaceae family which grows to approximately 15 feet tall. It is reportedly native to only a few canyons in western central Texas and in adjacent northeastern Mexico. It generally grows in a bush form but can be trained into a single-trunk tree. The leaves are bi-lobed almost like a small split Red Bud leaf or a cow hoof shape. The one pictured blooms bright white clusters of flowers in the spring and then forms flattened seed pods much like a Red Bud tree. There is also a Mexican Bauhinia that blooms light pink clusters of flowers.

The Anacacho Orchid Tree can grow in full sun or as an understory specimen. It is very drought tolerant, requires good drainage, and will tolerate different soil types other than the typical limestone soils of where it is native. North of Austin it will freeze during heavy winters but since it grows so rapidly it forms a new tree in less than a growing season.

If you might like to try growing an Anacacho Orchid Tree it is best that it be planted on the south side of your home or where it is shielded from the north and west winter weather.

Texas Tree Legislation

Texas Tree Legislation

Article written by
Richard Alles, Forests/Trees Conservation Leader

Alamo Group of the Sierra Club

(210) 494-2088




Bills Would Reduce Tree Mitigation Requirements Across Texas

Two bills in the Texas Legislature would reduce tree mitigation standards for new development. SB 744 and its identical companion bill, HB 2052, would preempt mitigation standards in all 77 local tree ordinances across the state.

In a nutshell, the bills allow builders and developers to plant fewer trees or pay less mitigation fees than are currently required. The bills were written by the Texas Association of Builders (TAB).

Where are the bills today (on 4-13-17)?

SB 744 was passed unanimously by the Senate. HB 2052 is awaiting a public hearing in the House Committee on Urban Affairs. This hearing will likely occur April 18th or 25th.

Lack of opposition in the Senate results from an agreement among major cities, TX Municipal League and TAB. Cities agreed to drop opposition to the bills in exchange for TAB’s pledge not to move the tree clearcutting bills.

These “clearcutting” bills would allow developers to clearcut trees, even old heritage trees, and strip most of the authority cities currently have to regulate tree removal. For reference, the clearcutting bills are SB 782 & its companion HB 2535 by Bill Zedler (R-Arlington), SB 898, and SB 1082 by Konni Burton (R-Fort Worth).

Who can I contact?

There are two Representatives from the DFW area on the House committee:

Rep. Jeff Leach | email | Austin office phone: (512) 463-0544

Rep. Bill Zedler | email | Austin office phone: (512) 463-0374

You can contact your state Senator and Representative by entering your address at Who Represents Me?

What is tree mitigation?

Municipalities typically require tree mitigation to compensate for excessive and/or unnecessary tree removal from development sites. It can take many forms, but the most common are payment of fees into a tree planting fund or replanting of new, smaller trees.

Standards vary widely among municipalities. In San Antonio, mitigation is required when more than 65% of trees larger than 6” diameter are removed for a new residential subdivision. In addition, every heritage tree (larger than 24” trunk diameter) removed must be mitigated. Mitigation is not required for any trees removed for streets, easements or rights-of-way.