To ball, or not to ball ...
If you've never seen those spidery, tentacle-like gray pods of moss on your tree before, don't worry - the tribbles from space are not coming down to take over your lawn.
It's a common question in central Texas - "Do I need to remove the ball moss covering my tree?"
The short answer is "It's up to you." If you don't like the way it looks, it's your property, and we can get rid of it fast and safely.
The long answer is that no conclusive studies point to a detrimental effect of ball moss habitation on a tree.
Limbs covered with ball moss may break under the weight, but these limbs may have been dead or dying anyway. Some speculate that older ball moss plants' roots might encircle and "choke" the tree limb or trunk, stunting growth and hastening death. This is not proven, though.
Ball moss grows everywhere. It will cling to fence posts, power lines, the sides of houses, whatever it can grip into. It uses a shallow, grip-like "root" structure to burrow shallowly into whatever it can latch onto.
If it's on your tree, the majority of evidence suggests that it is not sucking the life out of it. It's ball moss, not a vampire.
Rather, ball moss absorbs its nutrients and water from moisture and micro-organisms in the air. It also cleans the air and adds to the nitrogen content of nearby soil.
It also provides a habitat for insects that many local birds prey on. If you are a bird watcher, maybe it's worth keeping a little ball moss around so as not to spoil your avian friends' buffet lunch. They just might go elsewhere ...
We provide comprehensive ball moss removal upon request, but unlike our competitors, we don't actively encourage it just to boost our quote. It's a native plant and part of our local ecosystem, and a little ball moss can add character and interest to a landscape.
Mistletoe, on the other hand, is a parasite. A holly-jolly one, that might just get you a kiss in the doorway this winter, but a parasite for your trees.
Mistletoe was historically considered an aphrodisiac (hence the kissing connotation!) What it actually does is dig its root structure into the circulatory system of the tree - the xylem and phloem sap that shuttles nutrients and water to the tree's various systems.
As you can imagine, this isn't a good deal for the tree - any water and food benefiting the mistletoe is less that the tree can benefit from.
A little mistletoe probably won't hurt your tree, and provides habitat and food for various birds and other wildlife.
But as it seeds every three years, it can spread to other parts of your tree, even the trunk. At this point, the sapping of your tree's energy becomes exponential. The tree's growth becomes stunted, and the tree may be at risk of an early demise ... and then you'll be calling us for a real job!
Mistletoe should be removed or pared back at least every two years or so, to keep ahead of the flowering and seeding cycle. Winter is an ideal time for it, since it's easy to spot green mistletoe in a tree that has shed its leaves, and it nips your mistletoe problem in the bud before the spring, when your tree needs that nourishment to thrive and prosper.
If you have gone awhile without giving your tree a mistletoe haircut, why not make this the month for it? You'll save yourself costly tree salvage or removal down the road.