Florida is just entering into, what looks like a busy and stormy season. Pinellas County advises all of its citizens to make sure that their yards and trees are prepared for the upcoming hurricane season.  Part of getting your yard prepared is to make sure the yard is clear of loose items like furniture, grills and loose rocks.  The largest part of hurricane tree preparation is to make sure your trees are ready to take mother natures brutal assault.

Easily Avoid Property Damage

While some homeowners have a yearly maintenance plan for their trees, many do not. For those that don’t it is incredibly important that their trees get evaluated for potential problems. A tree may be leaning, very large, or look unhealthy, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the tree is a danger. If you are unsure if you should call someone to look at your property, there are things that you can look for.

If you see any of the above, make sure to contact your local arborist today.

Watch For “Hurricane Pruning” Scammers

You may have seen trucks with signs offering “Hurricane Pruning” driving around your neighborhood. While some of these may be reputable, a majority of them are scammers.  What they do is perform pruning of your trees that is not only dangerous for your trees but also possibly illegal in some areas of Florida.  Typically they either top a tree (also called hat-racking) or perform over-lifting.

Topping a tree removes the canopy, or top, of the tree. This technique removes limbs that may be vital to the trees health. When the tree regrows, it often become excessively heavy which can cause even more problems during future hurricane seasons.

Over-lifting is when the bottom half of the half of the trees upper portions are removed. While removing vital limbs and branches makes this technique similar topping, it also makes the treetop heavy. The weight is distributed less evenly in the tree making it much more likely to fall.

Proper Hurricane Tree Preparation

The correct way to prune a tree is something that takes years of practice and training to perfect. A highly trained arborist will do such a good job pruning your tree that your friends and neighbors won’t know that you have had anything done. Most importantly, only dead, injured and diseased branches are fully removed. Overweight branches are pruned and the rest of the may be thinned.

In the case of heavy branches, instead of removal, a certified tree service will reduce the weight on the branch. This preserves the trees aesthetics and ensures the tree is not over-pruned.  The rest of the tree may be thinned, which reduces the wind resistance of the tree. This will ensure that the 70+ miles per hour winds will more easily pass through the tree while making sure the tree is still vibrant and healthy.

Only Trust Certified Arborist To Evaluate Your Trees

You have probably noticed that I keep mentioning “qualified” or “certified” arborist as being the best choice for tree care. While there are a few tree companies that aren’t certified but do good work, there is only one way to be sure to get proper hurricane preparation of your trees. You need to look for ISA Certified Arborist, like Sustainable Tree Care, any time you need your trees pruned.  Of course if you didn’t prepare and you need emergency care for trees that were damaged by high winds or lightening we are available 24 hours a day to help you.

Removing A Tree Can Be Emotional

For many of us, trees are not just an element of our landscape; they are the holder of memories. People often plant trees to commemorate an event such as the birth of a child or to honor a loved one that passed-away. We also look at trees and remember our childhood when we spent so much time playing under or climbing on them. So, if you are faced with the knowledge that the tree must be removed, it can be very difficult to do.

Can I Just Trim or “Top” My Tree Instead?

The short answer to this question is, “It depends.” If the tree is diseased and just certain branches are infected, it may be possible to remove just those branches and save the tree. However, if the disease has permeated throughout the tree, the disease has probably progressed too far.

In the case where trimming the tree is possible, you should work with an experienced arborist to determine which branches need to be removed. This is critical because without professional help you may miss some problems that will mean that your tree will become re-infected.

Topping a tree is the process of removing the majority of the crown of the tree. This is never recommended either as a process of saving a tree nor as a way to reducing the size. Trees naturally grow to a certain shape depending on the type. When you top a tree all of the tree’s energy is directed toward regaining that shape. This leaves the tree weak. Further, when trees are topped most of the leaves are removed. Trees get their food from leaves so when they are removed you remove its nutrition source.

Signs That Your Tree Should Be Removed

There are a few signs that you can watch for that are high indicators that you may need to remove a tree.

If the answer to any or all of these questions is yes, it is highly recommended that you contact a tree removal professional. Removing a tree is very dangerous work and to avoid hurting yourself or others or your property, you should work with someone who is very experienced.

Protect Your Trees Without Chemicals

People are getting more and more interested in finding ways to take care of insect problems without the use of harmful pesticides. Luckily there are many things you can do to protect your trees that don’t require chemicals.

Keeping Your Trees Pruned And Clean Is A Great Start

In order to have a good foundation for your trees you should healthy soil with a good eco-balance, but this is also helps protect them from insects. Insects are attracted to unhealthy plant material. They are Mother Nature’s scavengers and serve as little cleaning teams for decaying plants. If your trees are unhealthy, the bugs will be there doing what they are designed to do…cleaning the place up! Be sure to clean-up rotten fruit, fallen leaves and diseased plant material.

It is critical to prune your trees every fall. Pruning trees will not only help avoid bugs, it is also critical to keeping the tree strong and disease-free. However, pruning is not simply hacking away at the tree. Proper pruning is an art and a science. Unless you are knowledgeable and experienced in pruning trees, you should contact an arborist experienced in proper pruning techniques.

Add Safe Products To Avoid Bugs

There are natural products that are safe for the environment that can be used to remove insects. One product to try is horticulture oil. As the name implies it is an oil-based product that can be used to control insects and used anytime during the year. It is particularly when used in the fall since it will kill overwinter eggs.

Another product to try is beneficial nematodes. Beneficial nematodes should be used in the spring to kill the overwintering stages of many pests in the soil. Remember though that some bugs migrate in the spring so you will need to use another product to kill those.

Find Plants That Bugs Can’t Resist

One way to get rid of the bugs that destroy your trees is to attract other bugs that will destroy them! Lacewings, which are little green or brown insects with large lacy wings, are particularly helpful. The larvae of the lacewing will destroy aphids, mites, and other small insect eggs. Another helpful insect is the ladybug. The larvae of the ladybug are particularly ravenous and will destroy the larvae of many “bad” bugs.

In order to attract ladybugs and lacewings you could plants like Queen Ann’s Lace or Marigolds. Or you could even plant herbs such as fennel and dill. These plants will definitely draw the type of bugs that are helpful for protecting your trees.

As you can see, there are several ways to protect your trees without the use of chemicals. If you need guidance for pest control, feel free to contact us and we’ll help you diagnose the problem and recommend an eco-friendly solution.


We get lots of calls each year from Florida homeowners concerned about their live oak trees and Spanish Moss or Ball Moss that is growing on them. Usually most homeowners are afraid these typically innocuous plants are a danger to their trees. It sometimes look like a healthy tree is being overtaken by a horrible infestation. Usually this is not the case. First it’s important to learn more about what Spanish Moss and Ball Moss are.

Shared Traits of Spanish Moss & Ball Moss

Both Spanish Moss (Tillandsia usneoides) and Ball Moss (Tillandsia recurvate) are native to Florida. Both of these plants are actually part of the Bromeliad family and not a moss or lichen at all. Neither one is parasitic, meaning they do not live off the trees nutrients. They are both more opportunistic, only using the tree for physical support. The both have seeds that are dispersed by wind or birds and live best in humid environments. This is where their similarities part.

The Truth About These Innocuous Plants

Spanish Moss
Spanish Moss, also known as long moss or greybeard, is best known for its appearance. It can grow up to 20 feet and has thin curvy scaly leaves that can measure up to 2 ½ inches long but are usually less than 1/32 of inch wide. The leaves can form a something that looks like a chain that hangs down from the branches of its host tree. Many companies use Spanish Moss as an organic packing material and florist use it to pack around the base of plants because it is very effective at holding in moisture.

While Spanish Moss is not usually harmful to a Florida live oak tree there are a few ways it can cause damage to the tree. First, it can inhibit the growth rate by reducing the amount of light that get through to a tree, slowing or stopping photosynthesis. Additionally if an oak tree is supporting a prolific amount of Spanish Moss a branches can actually break under the weight. Lastly during high wind & hurricanes excessive amount of Spanish Moss can increase a trees wind resistance, causing catastrophic damage to the tree.

Ball Moss
Growing best in areas of low light and little airflow, Ball Moss can be as small as a golf ball or as big as a volleyball , it actually collects moisture contained in the air and from bacteria that lives within the ball itself. They are made up of clusters of curved stems and fairly compact leaves, which give them their ball shaped appearance. In the spring they usually produce blue or purple flowers from the end a long stem. Interestingly these plants show promise as a treatment for cancer and AIDS.

Usually these bromeliads do not harm healthy trees, but may become prolific on a tree that is already weakened. Occasionally an overgrowth of Ball Moss will block out light from reaching a tree. If enough photosynthesis is stopped, growth can be inhibited and the tree may start to show signs of poor health.

Do You Need To Do Anything About Either Plant?

Most likely the Spanish Moss or Ball Moss is not causing damage to your beautiful Southern Live Oak. There are a couple of situations that should be evaluated by an expert in oak trees:

If you need help evaluating the condition of your live oak tree you should call in a professional arborist. Sustainable Tree Care is always available to answer your questions or come to your home to take a look at any trees you concerned about. Give us a call and we can let you know if your tree needs help and what kind of help it need.

Welcome to  Sustainable Tree Care’s new website and blog. We are so passionate about trees that we’ve created many great, informative pages to share our knowledge with you. Check out our Learn About Trees section to see interesting facts, tips, and other information. Continue to check back on our blog to get the latest information about tree care as we continue our learnings and experience.

Sustainable Tree Care is your go-to source for all things tree care! We are a family-owned company, based in sunny Florida that has proudly been serving the St. Petersburg and Tampa areas for close to two decades.
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