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Keep oak trees healthy this spring by preventing oak wilt

by / 0 Comments / 207 View / April 7, 2015

By Lindsay Starr Platt, The Belton Journal

Whether you have a new red oak tree planted only a few years ago or a majestic live oak that has been around for generations, they are still both susceptible to oak wilt. Oak wilt is a fungus that is transferred from infected trees by beetles, root grafting or infected chainsaws. As oak trees often grow together in motts, their roots interconnect, and through these connections, the fungus can spread from one tree to another, causing an infection center.

Joel Casebolt of Casebolt Treecare in Belton has a few words on how to prevent oak wilt and possibly treat it in its early stages.

While live oaks can be treated before the tree dies, red oaks always die from oak wilt. A red oak tree will be completely dead from an oak wilt infection in less than six months from contracting the disease.

“Some tips to help prevent oak wilt is to always paint and seal cuts made to branches. I cannot emphasize enough to paint those cuts on every live or red oak tree, no exceptions,” said Casebolt. “And also storm damage to oaks, you must seal the cuts within three days.”

Signs that your oak trees are infected include the thinning of the canopy, one major branch may start losing its leaves and also the leaves will have veins that appear yellow on live oaks and red oak leaves will turn brown.

“If your tree has signs of infection, you need to treat it right away. Make sure you hire a tree service,” commented Casebolt. “Ensure the company knows about oak wilt and they sanitize their equipment  and paint cuts every time.”

Oak wilt is transmitted by the fungus Ceratocystis fagacearum and is the most devastating disease to oak trees in Central Texas. New infections are spread when trees have “wounds” and the sap that seeps from the cuts attracts the beetles that carry the disease from infected trees to other trees.

Unless necessary, never prune your oak trees in the spring, when there is an increased chance or the spores being transmitted. Trees should be pruned from the end of June until the beginning of February. That is the time of the year the oak tree is more dormant and less sap is produced.

“Always make sure your oak tree has plenty of water even in the wet seasons,” Casebolt said. “The base of the tree should be void of grass around the base for example a twenty inch tree should have a three foot diameter of no grass at the base.”

Another way to avoid transmitting the disease is when cutting down an infected tree make sure the wood is destroyed by burning it. If the wood is not going to be burned cover it with clear plastic and let it sit undisturbed for one year to ensure the fungus has died. Never bring unseasoned firewood home to avoid transmitting the infection from one place to another.

For more information contact Casebolt Treecare at 254-231-7135 or casebolttreecare@gmail.com.