Oak wilt is a serious threat to red oak trees. Not only can it kill the tree quickly, but it can also spread rapidly among other red oak trees in the area. The fungus that causes oak wilt can spread via beetles and other insects as well as the distribution of spores. It spreads throughout the tree's water vessels and can destroy an entire cluster of oak trees rapidly. Luckily, you may be able to stop its spread if you identify its symptoms quickly. Here's a look at what you need to watch out for in your trees and some tips to deal with it if it develops.
Typical Signs of Oak Wilt Infection
Red oak trees that are infected with this fungus will start showing discolorations in the upper crown portion of the tree. In the early summer months, that discoloration usually appears as an off-green shade. If you see that kind of discoloration, take heed that the tree may be at risk of serious damage from the infection.
Left unaddressed, the leaves near the crown will start wilting. As the disease spreads through the tree, those leaves will turn brown. The brown color starts with the tip of the leaf and gradually works toward the base. Eventually, the leaves will die and fall from the tree. You'll see some green left near the lower leaf veins on the fallen, browned leaves.
Protecting Your Trees
One of the best ways to prevent your trees from an oak wilt infection and its effects is to keep the tree protected from open wounds. Beetles transmit oak wilt fungus between trees through fresh, open wounds on the tree. Be cautious any time you work around the trees so that you don't cut them or puncture the bark. Avoid any kind of open wounds and seal those that happen, especially during the spring and summer so that you don't risk infection.
Preventing Spread From Infected Trees
If you discover that one of your trees has been affected by oak wilt, you need to build solid barriers to prevent it from spreading, otherwise it will reach trees from the root system. Once one tree has been infected by a beetle, spore mats on the tree roots will spread to nearby trees through the soil.
You'll have to dig a deep series of trenches around the area of the tree roots to prevent the spread of the fungus from tree to tree. Your local tree service can help you ensure that the trenches are wide enough and deep enough to keep the fungus away from the roots.
You may have to remove the tree from the property completely, particularly if the oak wilt has killed the tree. You'll need a tree service to remove it properly, because there's a lot of preparation that goes into preventing the spores from spreading. You'll have to break the tree down into several pieces so that you can cover each piece with heavy plastic. Make sure that the edges of the plastic are tightly sealed to keep any spores inside.
Leave the wood wrapped for a few months in the sun and heat to kill any beetles in the trees. Then, uncover the wood and leave it to dry in the sun. The combination of the two kills the fungus in the trees, too.
Every oak tree is vulnerable to infection by oak wilt. Understanding not only what trees look like when they're infected but also how you can address that infection will help you keep it from spreading. If you have any concerns about protecting your trees or removing infected trees, talk with a local tree service today, such as Schulhoff Tree & Lawn Care, Inc.. The professional guidance will help you ensure that the trees are safely removed.