Oak wilt is a fungus that affects the living tissue of the tree. The fungus essentially feeds of the water and nutrients of the tree to reproduce rapidly. This causes the living tissue not to function properly anymore. The end effect of course is that the tree is unable to sustain itself and it dies from oak wilt. Think of oak wilt as a clogged artery like when someone has a heart attack. Only in the case of Oak Wilt once it has started there is no way to fix the problem. All means to save a tree from this disease are done preventatively.
Oak wilt affects every tree differently but the outcome almost always is the death of the tree. Preventative treatments have shown to be very successful in keeping this disease from spreading. Read more about the process of saving trees at the ARBORJET page.
When it comes to the spread of oak wilt many homeowners want to know how they got the disease or how they could get oak wilt on their site. While it is easy to point fingers at neighbors or ajacent properties oak wilt has many different ways to spread it. Open wounds in growing seasons is one of the easiest ways to spread this disease. It can spread into a tree through an open wound and spread throughout the tree. This is why oak trees are usually only trimmed in the winter months.
Root grafting spread may be one of the most common ways that oak wilt spreads though. This often makes homeowners concern grow when a tree nearby dies to this disease. Action is taken when oak wilt is knocking at your door and threatens your landscape. In this method of spread the infected trees roots touch another non-infected tree and the disease transfers to the new host tree. This process continues to happen and a large forested area of trees can die in a short period of time.
Other ways that fungus like oak wilt can spread is by vector. This is usually a boring type insect that attacks weakened trees and carries the disease from tree to tree. This is often the case when a new infestation of oak wilt occurs in a random area. In this case the disease is much slower and starts in branches of the tree. These active cases might be the only treatable trees that have active oak wilt. Of course immediate action is required and the infected areas must be trimmed out of the tree to have any chance of survival.
Can I keep the infected wood?
For those that are loosing a tree from oak wilt the loss may be very devastating as they have lost a very important part of their landscape. Well now they are left with great burning wood. Is it safe to keep the wood? Well the answer is yes but there are measures you need to take so that you do not continue to spread oak wilt to other trees in the area.
In most cases covering the infected wood with plastic will keep the spread of the disease at bay. You may also want to spray the wood with an anti-fungal that will break down before you are going to burn the wood. Burying the tarp under the soil will keep the disease from spreading underneath the plastic.
How long must I treat for oak wilt?
The normal practice for treating for active cases of oak wilt is 3 consecutive years. Without a host plant the disease will break down and no longer be able to survive in the area. The cases of oak wilt usually pop up erratically so you must always keep an eye out to see if it is spreading in your area. If you have many neighboring properties with oaks that are very susceptable to oak wilt it may be good to wait until the trees die off or are treated for 3 years before stopping treatments.
It can be hard to hear that the disease may be around for awhile and nothing can be done about it outside of their property lines. Many communites will work together to ensure that the disease does not kill their valuable trees and join up to do mass treatments.
A property affected by oak wilt. As you can see it spreads in sections as it is taken up through roots.
Plan on treating valuable trees for 3 years