If you have oak trees on your property, then it's important that you are familiar with the fungal disease known as oak wilt. There is no known cure for the disease, so there is nothing you can do to save your tree if it does become infected. However, it is essential to deal with infected trees properly so that the disease does not spread to other oaks in the area. Here's a look at how to diagnose and manage oak wilt.
Symptoms of Oak Wilt
Though most all species of oaks can become infected with oak wilt, the disease is most common in red, white, and live oaks. The first sign of oak wilt is usually dieback of select branches at the tree's crown. As the disease progresses, more and more branches tend to die, and the leaves fall off of them. Red oaks may also develop a green, oily sheen on some of their foliage. Sometimes trees in the advanced stages of oak wilt will develop white and greenish fungal mats on their trunks and large branches.
To distinguish between oak wilt and other diseases that may also cause leaves to fall prematurely, look over the rest of the tree. If you see spots on the leaves, chances are good that the tree has a more minor disease, such as anthracnose. If you see black, oozing cankers on the trunk of the tree, the tree probably has a condition such as thousand cankers disease rather than oak wilt. It's probably wise to have a tree care expert diagnose your tree so you can be sure its symptoms are caused by oak wilt rather than another disease.
How to Deal With a Tree that Has Oak Wilt
Oak wilt progresses rather quickly. White oaks typically succumb to the disease within a year, and red oaks may linger for several years before passing. Do not be tempted to leave the tree in place until it dies completely, as this may be detrimental to other oaks in the area. The disease is spread from tree to tree by beetles and other bugs, so leaving the tree in place will allow these insects access to fungal spores and encourage the disease to spread.
Whether you remove the tree yourself or hire someone to do it, make sure the leaves are burned so that the fungus is killed. The wood may be used as firewood. Sometimes, if the tree is felled when the disease is in its early stages, the wood may still be useable for making flooring, furniture, or other items.
Oak wilt is a deadly disease that needs to be taken seriously by tree owners. Watch your oaks for signs of this disease, and have them removed promptly if they appear to be infected. Companies such as Robert Jefferies Logging & Tree Service can help with professional tree diagnosis and removal.