What Is Wrong With My Tree? Oak Wilt

Oak Wilt Is A Fungal Disease

Oak wilt is a fungal disease attacking oak trees in eastern and central U.S. It causes rapid death of trees in the red oak group and a slower decline of trees in the white oak group. Oak wilt will spread quickly to other trees through insect vectors and root grafts. For this reason, it is crucial to identify and treat any trees with the fungus to minimize the threat of infecting healthy trees.

oak wiltWhat Trees Are Affected By Oak Wilt?

All oak trees, especially oaks in the red oak group (red, black, pin, etc.), are affected by oak wilt. Contact a professional arborist about identifying what trees are on your property and how to choose the right tree for your location.

What Are The Symptoms Of Oak Wilt?

In red oak group trees, leaves will begin to wilt and turn bronze and/or yellow at the top of the tree. The foliage will continue to decline on branches inward and downward till the entire canopy is dead. A brown streaking may be present in the outer ring of sapwood. This process only takes a few weeks, and the tree will be completely devoid of leaves by mid-summer.

In white oak group trees, the disease moves much slower. Due to the white oak group’s ability to decompartmentalize, it takes years for the fungus to spread throughout the tree. Symptoms of oak wilt on white oaks include branch dieback and overall tree decline. These symptoms are very similar to that of oak decline, construction damage, soil compaction, and root rot. It is necessary to have a pathology lab verify oak wilt for identification. Some species, such as white oak and bur oak, will contract the disease and then recover.

Controlling Oak Wilt In Your Trees

There is no control for oak wilt. The only solution is early detection to prevent the spread, and when oak wilt is identified, tree removal is the only option. This disease will spread to other oak trees by way of root grafts underground and insect vectors. Insects carrying the disease are attracted to other stressed or injured trees, including trees wounded by pruning cuts. Therefore, avoid pruning any oak trees during the spring and summer months.

Sanitation is also essential. Any pruning equipment used on an infected tree should be sterilized before it is used on healthy trees. All infected material should be hauled off-site and destroyed; any residual wood could potentially infect other trees. If any trees are in the vicinity of an infected tree, consider root pruning areas that may contain root grafts. Know that this is sometimes not practical in urban environments with underground utilities and irrigation.

The ISA-certified arborists at Hansen’s Tree Service stand ready to come to your home hassle-free to diagnose your trees and provide an assessment of treatment. 

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