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Dallas Morning News - December 7, 2017

Time to Get Vines Off of Trees and More

Stiff brush for removing leaves and loose soil from the bases of trees.

There’s a tree maintenance project that’s important and often overlooked. Winter is an excellent time to get this tree health work done. All the ivy and other vines should be taken out of the tops of your trees, off the trunks of you trees and away from the bases of your trees. Vines should simply not be allowed to grow on trees. Anytime during the dormant season is OK to do this work, but it’s best to get started now so time doesn’t run out before spring comes. It’s easy – all you need is pruning shears and a few other hand tools. In the tops of trees, vines reach out beyond the foliage and block the sunlight. With sunlight cut down, photosynthesis is reduced, food production is reduced and tree health suffers. Plus it just looks messy. I used to allow this to happen in some trees – thought it looked real “natural”, but finally realized that it was just laziness and poor arboriculture. English ivy and other vines and groundcovers are also a problem on trunks of trees. The climbing plants block light and air, limiting the breathing that bark is designed to do. The foliage and stems keep the bark too moist and they collect bits of loose bark, dead leaves and dust. This mixture builds up over time and creates soil that collects in the crevasses and crotches of trees. Even worse, it builds up on the root flares of trees creating a condition similar to trees being planted too deep in the ground. Girdling, rot and even tree death can result. At the very least, tree health and growth are reduced. Some in the business still say it’s okay to leave these plants on the trunks of trees. Their advice is bad. I used to make the same mistake.

Good first step but leaves and more soil should be removed.

There’s one more step in this important tree work. The removal vines from the trunks should continue out from the trunks at the bases. Groundcovers, vines and other plants should be removed to at least 12" out around the base of the tree to

expose the root flares. There’s a good chance the flares still won’t be visible because of being covered by soil. If leaves, mulch and soil and are covering the flares, they should be removed as well. Do the work carefully with hand tools, stiff brushes and blowers or hire a competent arborist to do the work with an air spade.

Your trees will appreciate this work and you will appreciate their improved growth.

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