title graphic Trees are Key with Paul Johnson will help listeners better care for their trees. This short weekly podcast will feature a short lesson, a weekly tree highlight and upcoming tree related events around the state. 

    Sample topics will include Why Trees are Key; How To Hire a Pro: To Help You Care For Your Trees; What do Trees Need To Thrive; Trees As Investments; and How To Water Your Tree.

    Trees Are Key on Soundcloud



    Most Recent Episode


    What’s wrong with my tree? It’s a common question. Listen to this week’s episode to learn the steps to being your own plant detective and find out how to get help figuring it out. 

    Tree of the Week - Species Spotlight - Rio Grande ash and beautiful ash from South Texas. Listen to this week’s episode to learn how to identify this tree and why it might not be a good idea to plant it.


    Join us this week to learn keys to developing successful tree partnerships with special guest Dana Karcher, Alliance for Community Trees program manager.


    “A people without children would face a hopeless future; a country without trees is almost as helpless.” ― Theodore Roosevelt

    Join us to learn how to cultivate a culture of trees with our kids in this week’s episode of Trees Are Key.

    Species Spotlight – Eastern Hophornbeam, Ostrya virginiana, Ironwood


    Ironwood may be uncommon in your local garden center, but it may be a great Texas native for you to add to your landscape. Listen this week to learn more about this wonderful tree.


    High winds can be very damaging to our trees. Listen this week to learn more about how to avoid wind damage and what you can do if your trees are damaged in a storm.

    Tree of the Week – Species Spotlight – Rusty blackhaw

    This week’s tree comes from our East Texas Regional Urban Forester Zaina Gates. Listen to learn more about this small, drought tolerant tree that looks great in all four seasons.


    The last Friday in April is National Arbor Day – it may not be a great time to plant trees across much of Texas, but it is a great time to celebrate trees and their importance in our lives. Listen this week to learn more about the beginnings of Arbor Day and find out who is being recognized by Arbor Day Foundation for their efforts to improve our trees and forests.



    Earth Day is 46 years old this year and has captured a lot of attention. I think it’s too bad that Arbor Day and Earth Day are so close together, but there can be a synergy -- In many areas they combine the two events into one big celebration. Anything that helps raise awareness of the environment, natural resources, and yes -- especially trees -- is a good thing. Join us to learn ways to integrate trees into your local Earth Day celebration.


     Trees are Key title Slide Keys to Sucking Pests  

    We’ve talked about oak wilt, emerald ash borer, and defoliating insects previously. This week join us to learn more about pests with piercing and sucking mouth parts in Keys to Sucking Pests.

    Our species spotlight is crapemyrtle, Laegerstromia indica, a beautiful, blooming tree that is common across Texas. Listen this week to learn more about the controversies surrounding this non-native tree.

     green trees and dark green banner title slide that says Tree City USA Is Key  

    Managing trees in our communities is key to maximizing the environmental, economic and social benefits of our community forests.
    How do you get started? How can a city, utility company or college campus be recognized for their efforts to care for their trees?

    That’s where three programs from Arbor Day Foundation come in. Join us to learn more in Tree City USA Is Key.

    Anacua, Ehretia anacua, is a unique, tough Texas native that has a unique leaf. Listen this week to learn more about this wonderful tree.




    There are many things that can cause a tree’s leaves to fall off or disappear. Listen this week to learn more about how to figure out what is going on and if you need to do something to help your tree.

    This week’s tree of the week is Texas Fall Elm also known as cedar elm. This tough Texas native can be a great choice in your yard or landscape. Listen this week to find out more about our Fall Elm.



    Let’s step outside of our community forests and look around. There are many acres of forestland across Texas. According to our 2011 FIA (Forest Inventory and Analysis) program there are over 62 million acres of forests and woodlands in Texas. This is second only to Alaska in total acres.

    In town, we think about our community forests producing shade, clean air & water, reducing flood waters, and increasing property values.

    Out of town, tangible products such as wood products (lumber, fuelwood, pulp), non-wood products (syrup, edibles, wildlife), and ecosystem services are produced … we need to keep forests as forests … trees are a renewable resource.

    Tree of the Week: Sugarberry aka palo blanco aka Celtis laevigata is a fast growing, short-lived species that is prime habitat for birds. Listen this week to learn more about an important habitat species.

     tropisms are key  

    Knowing how a tree grows is powerful and as they say – “with great power comes great responsibility”

    We’ve talked about trees needing light, water, air, nutrients and soil in episode 3 “Keys to Tree Growth”
    But why do trees grow up and not down?
    Why are trees in windy areas shorter?
    Why does the tree planted near the house grow away from the house at an angle?

    Join us this week to learn more about why “Tropisms Are Key”

    Mexican Buckeye is this week’s species spotlight. This tough, drought tolerant Texas native may be a good substitute for redbud. Listen this week to learn more about this wonderful flowering tree.

     Flowering 2  

    All trees bloom, but not all have showy flowers. Flowers are beautiful and provide habitat for hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees. Join us this week to learn more about including flowering trees in our communities.

    Species Spotlight – Texas mountain laurel is a standout this time of year. Listen this week to learn more about this sweet scented tree.

     + Previous Trees Are Key podcasts

    Join us this week as we wrap up our discussion of the 3Rs – Readiness, Response and Recovery. We’ve talked about how to prepare for a disaster and how to respond to the event. It’s now time to discuss how to help your community recover their trees and community forest. After all, trees are key to healthier, happier communities and we can make a difference.

    This week’s species spotlight is loblolly pine, the species at the center of the recovery efforts in the Lost Pines area near Bastrop, Texas. Join us this week to learn more about this economically important tree.


    Join us this week as we continue our exploration of the 3Rs — Readiness, Response, and Recovery. Proper, timely response to an emergency is key to keeping the public safe and protecting our trees.

    Species Spotlight — Carolina cherry-laurel is a small, evergreen tree that bees love. Listen this week to learn more about this Texas native tree.


    Planning for storms and pests is key to protecting our trees and ourselves. Listen this week to find out how to ready your community forests and the trees in your yard for a natural disaster.

    Species Spotlight: Wild Olive, Cordia boissieri

    This beautiful, small native evergreen can bloom 11 months out of the year in the Rio Grande Valley and is grown across the southwest. Listen to learn more about this unique tree.


     ancient trees  


    People are fascinated with big, old trees and they, often desperately, want to know how old they are. Listen this week to learn several techniques to estimate the age of your trees and learn the keys to caring for them.

    Species spotlight: Quaking aspen is the most widely distributed tree in North America which puts on an amazing display of fall color. Listen this week to learn more.



    Emerald Ash Borer, or EAB, is a serious threat to our ash trees that has been marching across the U.S. and Canada since 2002. Join us this week to learn how to spot their damage, identify the culprit and what you can do to help.

    Species Spotlight: The Kentucky coffee tree was used by early settlers as a coffee substitute. This is the only species in North America in the genus Gymnocladus and has no serious pest or disease issues. Kentucky coffee tree is a great choice in lawn areas because it allows sunlight to reach the ground and is drought tolerant.

     oak wilt  

    Oak wilt is a devastating fungal disease in Texas that has wiped out many large, beautiful trees. Join us this week to learn the keys to diagnosing, managing and avoiding this disease.

    Tree of the Week: Post oak
    Post oak is the not so secret ingredient in some of the best barbecue Central Texas has to offer. This tough, native Texas tree can be sensitive to building and development. Learn more about post oak in this week’s episode of “Trees Are Key.”



    Curious if you can bare-root a 6.5 inch Shumard oak to transplant it? Wonder if your tree is hollow and therefore more likely to fall over in a storm? Join us for this week’s episode “Advanced Arboriculture is Key” to learn how advanced techniques can answer these questions.

    Pneumatic excavation, resistance drilling and sonic tomography are advanced arboriculture activities that can be used to improve or assess our trees.

    This week’s tree of the week is American Holly — a tough, native evergreen that can be used in many sites across Texas.



    Have you ever picked a sweet, ripe peach off of a tree and taken a bite just to have the sun warmed juice run down your chin? Edible trees elicit a passion that rivals common sense. We have seen people line up hours early on a bitterly cold January morning to get a free fruit tree at the San Antonio Jammin’ Jams Fruit Tree Adoption. Join us this week to learn more about fruit and nut trees.

    We can’t talk about edible trees without talking about our state tree, the pecan, our tree of the week. From pecan pie to butter pecan ice cream to pecan sandies this native nut has earned its place on our table.



    Now that it's 2016,  there are a few things you can do to make a difference for our trees. Consider these 9 options for your tree resolutions.

    Our tree of the week is yaupon holly, Ilex vomitoria. It's a tough and beautiful ornamental tree with a less than beautiful species name.


    As we come to the end of 2015, let’s reflect on what we have learned and covered so far in Trees Are Key. It has been eight months packed with information about key tree basics, keys to caring for trees, key tree programs and hopefully, a little fun along the way. Have a Happy New Year


    Urban and forest may sound like two words that don’t belong together, but urban forests are key to healthy, happy and sustainable towns and cities. Join us this week to learn more about urban forests and the people responsible for caring for them— urban foresters.

    Species Spotlight: This week’s tree is rusty blackhaw, a small, flowering tree that does well in our yards and has few pests. 


    As winter’s grip tightens across the nation, there are a few things we can do to help our trees. Check out this week’s episode of Trees Are Key to find out how to help your trees survive the cold.

    Species Spotlight – Citrus is one of winter’s sweet surprises. Have you tried to grow your own, but it’s just too cold where you live? Check out this week’s tree of the week – ‘Arctic Frost’ satsuma, a Texas SuperStar® 


    It is the season of giving and we have a few gift ideas for anyone that loves trees. From books to tools, jewelry or art — there is something for everyone in this week’s episode of Trees Are Key.

    This week’s tree of the week is Texas ebony. This tough, evergreen, Texas native is a great tree and there is a famous ebony along the banks of the Rio Grande River.


    'Tis the season for gathering, giving, and celebrating the holidays. For many people that means bring a bit of the outside inside --Christmas trees are going up in homes everyday. Find out more about how to bring a real tree, living or cut, into your home on this week’s podcast “Keys to Christmas Trees”

    Tree Of The Week: The Christmas Tree -- History.com states that Christmas trees are grown in all 50 states -- even Alaska and Hawaii. Start a new tradition and cut your own tree. There are Christmas trees farms in many areas – find out how to find the one closest to you and support a local farmer.


    Fallen leaves are key to saying time and money. Many people spend time raking and bagging leaves in the fall, but those leavers are a great source of organic material and nutrients. Join us this week to find out how to use this free resource

    Species Spotlight: Mexican sycamore is a fast growing, well-adapted shade tree that is a good choice for many of our yards. Listen to this week’s episode of Trees Are Key to find out more about this beautiful tree. 

    Shorter days, cooler temperatures and falling leaves seem to make people think about fertilizing their trees. Fertilizing may help your tree, but the tree may not need to be fertilized. Join us to learn more about the nutrients trees need, soil and leaf testing and different ways to apply fertilizer.

    This week’s species spotlight is Arizona ash (Fraxinus velutina) a commonly planted tree you may want to remove from your plant palate.



    We lose trees after every storm. A few pruning cuts can make all the difference in how long your tree lives. Join us this week to find out why structural pruning is key and how to get started.

    Mexican white oak is our tree of the week — find out more about this Texas native in this week’s #TreesAreKey podcast.


    In this week’s episode of Trees Are Key we have guest Kari Hines a wildland urban interface specialist with Texas A&M Forest Service.

    Wildfire can be disruptive and devastating. This week find out what you can do to be more Firewise® and protect your home and family from wildfire.

    What is WUI? Do you live in a WUI area? What is your risk of damage from wildfire?  Join us this week as Hines helps get you started on the path to being Firewise®.

     AD is key  

    Arbor Day is the annual celebration of trees. This week we have a special guest, Tom Boggus, Texas State Forester and director of Texas A&M Forest Service joining us to talk about the importance of Arbor Day.

    This year, our Texas Arbor Day is being celebrated in College Station at the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum on Friday, Nov. 6 at 10 a.m. Visit tfsweb.tamu.edu/content/article.aspx?id=22497 to learn more!

     planting tak  

    It’s tree planting season and we have talked about what species to plant and how to pick a great tree in the nursery. It is now time to talk about how to properly plant the tree for long term success.


    Our species spotlight this week is bur oak — one of my favorite trees! This is also the tree that we have planted all over Texas this year in commemoration of our Texas A&M Forest Service centennial.

     selecting the  

    It’s planting season and picking the right kind of tree is important. So is the way you plant your tree, but there is a step in between. How do you pick which tree in the nursery or garden center you should buy and plant? Join us this week to learn more about Keys to Selecting THE Tree. This week’s tree of the week is tepeguaje or great lead tree. This fast growing Texas native can quickly change the environment where it is planted and improve the survival of other species.  


    ‘Right Tree, Right Place’ has been around for decades. What does it really mean? What tree should I plant in my yard? Find out in this week’s Trees Are Key episode “Species Selection is Key.”

    Species Spotlight: American smoketree is a beautiful, small, native tree that isn’t used often, but it is well adapted to the tough conditions we find in our towns and cities. Listen to this week’s episode to find out more about this unique tree.  

     building tree  

    Buildings are going up left and right — there is a local joke about cranes being the official bird of Austin because of all the construction cranes downtown. Construction is tough on trees, but there are a few actions we can take to protect and preserve our trees through the process. 

    Species Spotlight: The Texas live oak (Quercus fusiformis) is a tough Texas native that grows well in our droughty, alkaline soils. Typically smaller than its southern cousin, Quercus virginiana, Texas live oak thrives under tougher growing conditions and accounts from many of our Famous Trees of Texas.

     soil is key  

    Soil is the foundation of our trees and key to their success.
    Knowing more about your soil will help you determine what you need to do for your trees. Soil texture, bulk densityand pH are key factors in determining what trees species will grow well for you. Join us this week to learn more about soils and trees.

    This week’s species spotlight is desert willow a beautiful small flowering tree that is also drought tolerant. 



    As the weather cools, our thoughts turn to football and baseball, sweaters and falling leaves. But why do trees lose their leaves? Why do they turn such brilliant colors? Listen to this week’s episode of Trees Are Key to find out. Our Species Spotlight this week is Ulmus Americana — American elm. This poor tree has faced a dreadful enemy, the Dutch elm disease, but that is no reason to give up on it. Find out more about our stately American elm by listening to this week’s episode.


    Trees do a lot of great things, but falling down isn’t one of them. Want to know how to keep your family and home safe? Listen to this week’s episode, Keys to Tree Risk Management.

    We are getting close to planting season and this week we introduce our new Tree of The Week: Species Spotlight where we highlight trees you should consider planting in your yard, neighborhood or town. This week we start with Retama aka Jerusalem Thorne — find out more about this colorful, drought-hardy tree by listening to this week’s episode of Trees Are Key. 



     Roots are key to healthy trees, yet they are out of sight and we don’t know much about them. We know topping trees — indiscriminately cutting the ends off branches — is bad, but we don’t know that trenching to install a sprinkler system can be just as bad if not worse. Join us this week to learn the eight things you need to know about tree roots.

    Upcoming events:
    Visit isatexas.com to learn more about the Texas Tree Conference, academy and school.

    Visit kdb.org or ctufc.org to learn more about the North Texas Citizen Forester program.

    Join #treechat on Twitter each Tuesday from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. Central Time.

    We have a guest this week — Mickey Merritt is one of our regional urban foresters from Houston and he is a big tree hunter.

    Have you seen a big tree? How do you know if that big tree is really big? Want to learn more about measuring big trees? Listen to find out more about this regional, state and national program.

    Check out our website for our Big Tree Registry.

    Summer is coming to a close, but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy a nice trip or vacation. Recently, I was asked where good vacation locations in Texas were, that included trees.  This episode is the answer to that question.

    Here are the sites that I refer to in this episode.

    Our Tree Trails app - http://texasforestinfo.tamu.edu/treetrails/

    Houston Area Urban Forestry Council Big Tree Registry—http://haufc.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/HarrisCountyTreeRegistry2011.pdf

    City of Ft Worth has a Heritage trees tour—http://fortworthtexas.gov/forestry/heritage-trees/         

    Portland’s Heritage Trees which can be downloaded for free or order a printed copy for $5—https://www.portlandoregon.gov/parks/article/441738

    PDX Trees—http://pdxtrees.org/

    Tampa Tree Map—http://tampatreemap.usf.edu/

    North Texas Citizen Forester Program—http://kdb.org or http://ctufc.org for more information. 

    It might be best for our trees to outlaw lawns across the country, but that isn’t realistic. People love their lawns and their trees. Join us this week to learn how you can have both.

    Find out how you can care for your tree on our  Lawn Care Around Trees  info sheet in our Urban Forestry Information Pages. 

    It doesn’t take long to figure out trees are important on a hot, summer day in Texas. Just go to a local shopping center parking lot and you will see many cars parked in the shade. You can see the same thing in rural areas with the cows in fields. Shade is key to comfort, but it is also key to our bank accounts. Join us for this week’s episode to learn more about how Shade is Key.

    Mentioned energy saving, tree planting initiatives:

    City of San Antonio and CPS Energy – Green Shade Rebate:  https://www.cpsenergy.com/en/my-home/ways-to-save/rebates-rebate/green-shade-tree-rebate.html

     Oncor Energy and Arbor Day Foundation: http://energysavingtrees.arborday.org/#Home

     City of Austin, Austin Energy and TreeFolks: http://www.treefolks.org/neighborwoods-free-trees-for-your-home/

     City of Denton and Keep Denton Beautiful—more info to come at http://kdb.org/

    Even with all the rain we have received this year, our trees may be suffering from drought. Join us to learn what we can do to help our trees through that tough time when no water falls from the sky.

    Something as simple as properly mulching you tree (http://tfsweb.tamu.edu/uploadedFiles/TFS_Main/Urban_and_Community_Forestry/About_Urban_and_Community_Forestry/Urban_Forest_Information_Sheets/How%20do%20I%20care%20for%20my%20Tree%20-%20Mulching%20your%20%20tree.pdf) could help your tree survive our long, hot and dry summers.

    Our tree of the week is the former champion Rio Grande cottonwood. You can find other Texas champions on our Big Tree Registry. http://tfsweb.tamu.edu/uploadedFiles/TFSMain/Learn_and_Explore/Conservation_Education_Resources(5)/rptBTR-NativeNaturalized_5-15.pdf

    Paul will be teaching about trees and drought at Texas Nursery and Landscape Association’s Expo in Dallas on Aug. 14. Find out more at http://www.nurserylandscapeexpo.org/

    We are entering the summer dormancy which is a great time to prune trees. We need to set our pruning goals and select the best pruning type to achieve those goals. In this episode we talk about standard language for different types—or methods—of pruning. This is so we know the work we’re asking for it the work that will be done.

    You can find out more about our Big Tree Registry through our website www.tfsweb.tamu.edu


    Tree Chat on Twitter is every Tuesday from 1 p.m. – 2 p.m. Central Time. Search for #treechat.

    International Society of Arboriculture Annual Conference is in Orlando, Florida on August 9 – 13.  Find out more at www.isa-arbor.com.

    Texas Nursery and Landscape Association’s Expo is in Dallas on August 13 – 15. Find out more at www.nurserylandscapeexpo.org.

    PPE stands for personal protective equipment and it is the first step before working on your trees. Join us to find out what you need to protect yourself.

    Join us for #treechat on Twitter Tuesdays from 1 p.m. – 2 p.m. Search for #treechat in your favorite Twitter app.

    International Society of Arboriculture hosts their International Conference in Orlando, Florida next month. Find out more at http://www.isa-arbor.com/home.aspx

    Trees can be a physical connection with our past and our future. Whether it is a Kissing Oak or a Hanging Oak, many communities have trees that are important and have stories that deserve to be told.

    Listen this week to learn more about the Famous Trees of Texas program from Gretchen Riley—one of the authors of the centennial edition of the Famous Trees of Texas book.

    Get your copy of the book today!

    Visit the Famous Trees of Texas website to explore more trees or nominate a tree.

    Join Paul (@treevangelist), during #treechat on Twitter every Tuesday from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. Central Time. Search for #treechat and use the hashtag to join the conversation!

    Water is vital for the success of our trees. Too much or too little can be an issue. In this week’s podcast find out how, when and how much to water your trees, and when you don’t need to bother.

    You’ll also learn how to test your sprinkler system in order to run it the appropriate length of time.

    Supporting information can be found in our Urban Forest information sheets

    Join Paul (@treevangelist), during #treechat on Twitter every Tuesday from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. Central Time.  Search for #treechat and use the hashtag to join the conversation!

     Knowing what kind of tree you have is key for proper tree care. You can always ask someone else, but we will get you started on the road to do it yourself tree id.

    Do you know the difference between simple and compound leaves?
    Do you know the difference between opposite and alternate leaf arrangement?
    Do you know we have a tree ID website

    This week’s tree of the week is the Center Oak from the Famous Trees of Texas Centennial Edition. Get your copy of the book today.

    Improper pruning is one of the biggest challenges trees face in our towns and cities. 

    It could be someone using a polesaw to trim the branches away from their house or the so called “tree guy” that strips all the limbs and foliage out of the center of our tree, leaving twigs and leaves only at the end of the branch—known as lion’s-tailing.

    One of the best defenses against improper pruning is the climbing arborist. They can get up into a tree, fully assess its needs and properly prune the tree.

    Listen to find out more about our Tree Climbing Championships, the dangers of tree care and ISA’s Certified Tree Worker Climber Specialist.

    Visit www.isatexas.com to learn more about the Texas Tree Climbing Championship and the Tree Care Industry Association’s Chipper Safety Class on June 26 in Irving, Texas. Find out more about tree care safety at www.tcia.org.

    This episode is inspired by the late Dr. Bonnie Appleton. We do a lot to our trees and around our trees because we think it helps the tree. Unfortunately, often this is not the case. Join us to find out if you are guilty of loving your tree to death.

    How To Kill a Tree by Dr. Bonnie Appleton https://pubs.ext.vt.edu/430/430-210/430-210_pdf.pdf

    Our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone affected by the recent storms.

    It is especially important in the initial days of a flooding event to take action. When there is a flood, there are things
    you can do to reduce safety hazards caused by downed and damaged trees and protect the trees still standing.

    Here is a little information about how to care for your trees following the floods.

    Additional resources:
    Hire an ISA Certified Arborist at isatexas.com.

    Donate to help restore trees in flood-affected
    areas at treecovery.tamu.edu.

    Learn more about repairing trees after the storm
    at tfsweb.tamu.edu/afterthestorm.

     After the Storm: Flooding






     Download After the Storm: Flooding Fact Sheet

    We are often asked, "What is one thing I can do to help my trees?" The answer is pretty simple and better yet it is often free. Listen to this week’s episode to find out what’s the key to healthier and happier trees.

    Tree of the week – Waugh Campground Oak from the Famous Trees of Texas Centennial Edition. http://tamupress.com/product/Famous-Trees-of-Texas,8201.aspx

    Upcoming Tree Events:
    Texas Tree Climbing Championship in Fort Worth at Trinity Park June 12-13 www.isatexas.com

    Certified Arborist Preparation Class in Austin starting June 15. More information at www.treefolks.org/CAP

    Tune in for next week’s topic: loving your tree to death.

    We have talked about why trees are key to healthier and happier communities. Now let’s learn about the value your trees can have for you. Trees can be a great investment.

    Look for a Registered Consulting Arborist to help you appraise the value of your trees at https://www.asca-consultants.org/

    Visit our website tfsweb.tamu.edu to find more stories like this week’s Tree of the Week from the Famous Trees of Texas.

    You can find upcoming tree events at isatexas.com

    Trees need five things to grow well. Listen to this week’s podcast to find out what those things are and how they impact our tree care decisions.

    This week’s Tree of The Week is the Columbus Oak from the Centennial Edition of Famous Trees of Texas by Gretchen Riley and Pete Smith. http://www.tamupress.com/product/Famous-Trees-of-Texas,8201.aspx

    Tree Event: Bilingual Tree Care Workshop in Schertz Thursday, May 13. http://sa-aa.com/

    Next week we will talk about trees as key investments.

    As they say at ISA, “Trees are good. Trees require care. Arborists care for trees.”

    Join us and find out the key to hiring a quality pro to help you care for your trees.


    Texas Chapter of ISA www.isatexas.com ISA Consumer information www.treesaregood.com ISA www.isa-arbor.com

    Upcoming tree events at www.sa-aa.com


    In this episode we talk about why trees are key to healthier and happier towns and cities and why you should care about the trees around you.