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Understanding and Preventing Oak Wilt Disease

From energy efficiency and added curb appeal to an increase in your home's overall value, it is easy to see the benefits of healthy trees in your landscape design. Unfortunately, many homeowners do not fully understand how to care for their trees. While watering and even fertilizing may be priorities, protecting your trees from different diseases and pests is also important.

Oak wilt is one of the most common diseases that affect oak trees today. It is also one of the most devastating diseases because it affects the health and appearance oak trees - while also shortening their life spans. While shocking to learn, oak wilt can kill a tree within a few months after symptoms begin to set in.

Understanding and treating this disease is imperative. With this guide and the help of a certified arborist, you will learn the causes, signs and treatment options for trees with oak wilt disease.

Development of Oak Wilt Disease

Oak wilt disease is caused by a fungus, Ceratocystis fagacearum. This infectious fungus spreads fast - destroying the leaf veins that carry the tree's water supply. The fungus also spreads through the tree bark and creates thick mats of the fungus that beetles and other insects feed on. Once an insect feeds off the fungal mat, they will carry and transmit the oak wilt disease to other trees.

Once the fungus spreads to the tree's roots, oak wilt disease can be transmitted to other trees near or connected to the same root system.

Symptoms of Oak Wilt Disease

The symptoms of oak wilt disease vary according to what type of oak is infected with the fungus. Red oaks will show visible signs in the actual tree canopy. You may notice an oily, green discoloration on the foliage of the tree's canopy. This discoloration may change to a tan or reddish color as the fungus spreads. If the foliage is discolored and falling off the tree rapidly, the tree is most likely infected by oak wilt disease. 

In live oak trees, signs of oak wilt will be prominent in the veins of the leaves. The middle part of the leaves and side veins will start to turn yellow and brown - this is known as veinal necrosis.

Treatment of Oak Wilt Disease

Because oak wilt can spread through the root system, you should remove infected trees from your property. Hiring a professional is best for
the removal of these trees because proper handling is essential to prevent the fungus from spreading to other areas of your landscape.

To save multiple trees that are infected with the oak wilt fungus, you may need to create a deep trench around diseased trees. This trench can stop the spread of the disease to other trees by protecting the underlying root system.

If you only have one tree in your yard that is infected, treatment is possible. Fungicide injections to the tree's trunk and soil around the tree will kill oak wilt fungus. However, you must also prune off infected branches and foliage.

Pruning infected limbs should not be conducted between the months of February and June. Spring is the ideal season for accommodating new growth in healthy trees, but infected trees will not see any benefits of pruning in the spring. Diseased branches should be removed in the winter, summer or fall.
Trusting the professionals to prune your trees is essential. Arborists have the necessary tools and experience to work around fungus and disease.
Oak wilt disease can wreak havoc on the look and health of your trees, but help is available. To learn more about preventing oak wilt and other diseases with proper tree care, contact the certified arborists at Holcomb Tree Service today.
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