Oak Wilt: Threatening America’s Majestic Oak Trees
March 2, 2021
Not since the great American chestnut tree was nearly driven to extinction in the early twentieth century has a disease become such a prevalent threat against our native tree population. In 1904, the arrival of chestnut blight and ink disease nearly decimated American chestnut trees throughout the nation, killing billions of specimens. Chestnut blight and ink disease continue to be a threat to the remaining few chestnut trees that were isolated from the initial onslaught of the pathogen. Since then, a new and devastating disease threatens the vast majority of oak trees in Eastern and Midwestern forests and line the streets of everyday suburbia. Oak wilt has arisen as a severe threat to oak trees across the country and maybe a danger to specimens in your own backyard.
What Is Oak Wilt?
Oak wilt is a highly contagious disease that affects over 33 different variants of the oak tree. First identified in the mid-twentieth century, oak wilt has become one of the primary causes of oak tree death in Eastern and Midwestern states. The disease is caused by a fungal organism — Bretziella fagacearum. This pathogen invades the tissues that an oak tree uses to carry water throughout its structure. Once exposed, symptoms can include defoliation, canopy wilt, and leaf discoloration. It is impossible to save a tree once it becomes infected with Bretziella fagacearum, no matter what treatment steps are taken.
Where Is Oak Wilt Most Common?
Oak wilt disease is found almost exclusively in the Midwest and Eastern United States. In recent years, oak wilt has become a significant threat to the oak tree populations of Pennsylvania. As the pathogen continues to spread in rural and urban areas, the associated costs with tree infestation continue to rise. Oak wilt has become a significant threat in suburban and urban regions, leading large red and white oak trees to die rapidly. Once an oak tree dies, it becomes a severe threat to the health and safety of its surroundings. A dead tree can spread the infection to other trees and become an imminent threat to homes and people underneath it.
How Does Oak Wilt Spread?
Oak wilt can spread through several pathways. Once a parent tree has become infected with the disease, it can spread through the underground utilizing existing root systems to travel to adjoining trees. Insects also play a factor in the spread of oak wilt. Yet, human activity is the leading cause of oak wilt transmission in the United States. A leading aspect of oak wilt spread can be attributed to the transportation of firewood long distances. Improper disposal of branches and debris following the removal of a tree in urban areas also increases the likelihood of oak wilt spread.
What Can Be Done to Prevent Oak Wilt Disease Spread?
Unfortunately, once a tree becomes infected with oak wilt disease, the tree cannot be saved. Particularly susceptible species can die within a year from initial exposure. Although keeping individual specimens is impossible, there are several ways a homeowner can reduce the chances of spreading oak wilt disease:
If someone suspects a tree on their property has died of oak wilt disease, they should immediately contact a professional tree removal service. Attempting to remove the tree on their own can be dangerous to them and potentially spread the pathogen to other oak trees in the area. A professional tree removal business, like All The Above Tree Service, can effectively and efficiently remove an oak tree that has died from oak wilt disease. With professional methods of removal, the possibility of disease spread in an urban area is significantly reduced. A professional tree service will be able to remove an oak tree without directly impacting surrounding specimens. They will also properly dispose of all remaining wood and debris safely.
Trees that surround an infected tree can also be treated to prevent the spread of Bretziella fagacearum. This will provide a protective barrier against the fungal infection, yet it is costly and time-consuming. Most often, municipalities that have discovered an oak wilt infestation will use these methods to reduce the loss of tree habitat in their area.
Finally, improper pruning and trimming can also lead to an increased possibility of infection in an oak tree. Cutting a tree incorrectly or during the wrong season can lead to an oak wilt infection due to the exposed tissue at the cutting point. It is always important to consult with a professional tree trimming specialist before deciding to do any pruning of trees on your property.
All The Above Tree Service is a leading provider of tree removal services in Southeastern Pennsylvania. If you need a professional tree service to remove a dead or dying tree on your property, please contact us today.