• Trees and shrubs are important to wildlife habitat, for erosion control and biological diversity when the right species are in the right places. When not in the right places, trees and shrubs quickly become "brush" and should be managed accordingly.

    Brush is a general term for woody shrubs and trees which are out of place given the purpose of your land.

    Trees and shrubs which are benefiting the ecosystem and working within the objectives for your land should be cared for and encouraged. 

    Encouraging tree health can be done in many ways: proper pruning; protecting from machine or wildlife damage; maintaining healthy root systems and protecting the soil; eliminating competition; and encouraging natural regenerated seedlings to survive and grow.


     + Tree Care Tips
    • Don't prune new trees for the first five years and then prune with a purpose.
    • Prune with careful, educated cuts.
    • Avoid oak wilt by not damaging or pruning trees when beetles are most active (Feb. through June).
    • Paint wounds on all oaks anytime of the year.


    Visit Texas Tree Planting or Trees are Good for more information. 



     + Brush Management
    In Central Texas, brush is more commonly considered as types of cedar, mesquite, prickly pear and occasionally scrub oak or plum when they are out of place or overpopulated based on your land objectives.


    Trees and shrubs can either be useful as wildlife shelter or visual screens, or be considered brush that should be cleared or managed.


    Brush management is best done in phases. Assess each woody species and determine where and how brush should be decreased or managed. Be conservative and learn as you go.


     + Preventing Brush
    • Manage livestock. Over-grazed land is more susceptible to woody brush taking over. Tall, thick, healthy grasses will often out-compete woody seeds trying to sprout. 
    • Implement a prescribed burn program. Cool, winter burns usually do the trick especially when grass is tall and healthy. However, as you gain more experience, hotter, warm-season burns can also be helpful. 
    • Clear re-growth brush while it’s small.


     + Methods of Brush Control

    There are several ways to control brush. Using a multi-method approach usually gets the best results.


    Generally used on smaller cedar and mesquite, follow label directions to avoid harming yourself or desirable plants.

    Contact experts and review material such as Brush Busters or AgriLife Extension publication B-1466(PDF, 2MB) for a more extensive list of plant species and how to control them.


    Fire is nature's way of controlling brush and it can improve range and forest health when used with other methods of control.

    Burns can be very effective and cost efficient on cedar under five feet tall. A TDA certified and insured prescribed burn manager can help you develop a burn plan and conduct a safe and effective burn. 



    Although not preferred, it is possible to clear small cedar and other woody brush with goats. However, goats generally eat everything else first and should be used Dec. - Feb.


    • Grubbing with a back hoe or specialized dozer blade is the preferred way to kill mesquite and red-berry juniper. Grubbing involves lifting the root crown above the ground. 
    • Equipment can simply remove all green limbs on cedar (ashe juniper or eastern redcedar) and the brush will die. This can be done with bobcat shears, a hydro-axe grinder or dozer blade.  
    Keep soil disturbance to a minimum. Heavy machinery can cause soils to erode, delaying reestablishment of grasses. Also, exposing rocks can cause future management problems.


     + Leftover Debris
    There is often a substantial amount of leftover debris after cutting brush. Management of this debris should reflect your land objectives. For example, smaller cedar debris can be used as bird and reptile shelter, as a deer exclosure around hardwood regeneration or to slow down water on slopes. Burning cedar should be done with extreme knowledge and caution.  
    Each situation is different. Consult a professional for help managing your debris.


     + Wildlife

    Brush has wildlife benefits when managed properly. It is important to research the endangered species in your area to see if brush management may impact their habitat.