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Oak Wilt: How to Protect Austin Trees

published on April 29, 2013

oak wilt AustinThe fungus Ceratocystis fagacearum is responsible for Oak wilt, a devastating tree disease affecting live oaks and red oaks throughout Central Texas. Spread tree-to-tree by spore-carrying beetles above the ground, and through interconnected root systems beneath the ground, this contagious fungus is highly destructive and expensive to combat.

Left untreated, most live oaks defoliate and die over a 1- to 6-month period following initial appearance of Oak wilt symptoms. Red oaks do not survive Oak wilt, and usually die within 4 weeks. Are trees in the Village at Western Oaks more susceptible than those in Great Hills? Tree death is greatest in dense areas of susceptible trees, and risk is highest during spore-friendly times of high humidity, such as spring.

The Texas Forest Service, Texas AgriLife Extension Service, and the International Society of Arboriculture developed the following guidelines to help prevent spread of Oak wilt:

– To protect trees from infection, avoid the pruning or wounding of oaks during the spring (February through June) whenever possible.

– Should wounding occur (from pruning or breakage), wounds should be immediately painted over with latex paint (or tree wound dressing) year-round. These wounds are beetle-attracting and will make healthy trees more susceptible to the disease.

Prune back and paint any oak branches that sustain recurrent minor injuries from passing vehicles (like trash trucks, for example) or wind friction (from rubbing against an object). A persistently exposed wound is more of a risk than a single pruning cut that will heal quickly.

– It is also extremely important that pruning tools (yours or those of the arborist) be bleached or Lysol-treated between sites and/or trees. Otherwise, spores from an infected tree at a Lake Travis home could pass the fungus to a healthy tree at a Lost Creek home during pruning!

oak wilt damage austinThink your trees may have Oak wilt? Many tree disorders have similar symptoms. A good arborist will plan to visit the tree about four times over the course of 12 months (as opposed to diagnosing on the first visit). Using digital photography, he/she will watch for consistent patterns of dieback, as well as the progression of any other symptoms, before making an educated diagnosis and making recommendations for treatment.

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The Austin REALTORS® at Regent Property Group wish to protect Austin trees from this disease and also to protect your home values. On the lookout for a Luxury Home in Austin, Texas? Check out Austin Home Search!

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