Oak Wilt: What You Should Know

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First off, why should you care about Oak Wilt?  It’s a rapidly occurring, life threatening disease that has been identified in areas as local as Brooklyn and Long Island.

Which Oaks does Oak Wilt effect? Examples of trees effected in the red oak group include those with pointed leaves: scarlet oaks, pin oaks, black oaks etc.  Oak wilt also does attack trees within the white oak group with rounded leaves such as the white oak, swamp white oak and scrub oak, although the disease is much slower moving on these trees.

This disease was first discovered in Wisconsin as far back as 1944.  Over the years it spread throughout the midwest and Texas killing tens of thousands of oak trees. It was first discovered in Long Island, New York in 2008 and has been discovered as recently as Fall 2016 at Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn, NY.

Once Oak Wilt is discovered, the surrounding area immediately becomes an Oak Wilt protective zone.  This is essentially a quarantined area where the movement of logs, branches or large wood pieces is prohibited.

The disease is spread by beetles that attack bark (especially attracted to fresh wounds from pruning) and also travel from root structure to root structure underground.  As mentioned, this disease spreads and kills at a very rapid pace! Taking a mature tree out in a matter of weeks, and close to a full mile in just a year.

How can you keep your eye out for Oak Wilt? Symptoms of oak wilt infection are definitely much more visible in the red species than in white oaks.  Signs to look for include:

  • Brown coloration develops on leaves starting at the outer edge and progressing inward toward the mid-vein of the leaf.
  • Branch dieback starts at the top of the tree’s canopy and progresses downward.
  • Leaves suddenly wilt in the spring and summer and may fall while there is still some green on them.
  • Fungal spore mats may develop under the bark of infected trees.

What to do it you discover Oak Wilt? Call an arborist immediately!  Because this is such a fast acting disease, you should not hesitate to get a trained professional to evaluate the situation.  While there is no cure for Oak Wilt, trunk injections have proven helpful in prevention.  Once a tree becomes infected, the top priority is to stop the fungus from spreading.  This can be done through a process called trenching, where arborist will dig deep into the ground to sever the infected tree’s root system to stop it from moving on to neighboring trees.  The infected tree then must be removed, the stump should be ground as thoroughly as possible, and then the remaining elements treated with a herbicide to prevent spreading.

For more information or to schedule a free tree evaluation please call 914-725-0441.

 

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