Wimberley has been dodging oak wilt for many years, but it’s an epidemic in the Hill Country,” says Eric Beckers of the Texas Forest Service. “Many surrounding areas have been devastated by oak wilt, which kills trees that add so much to our local property values. Wherever human activity is, it tends to crop up.”
How Oak Wilt Spreads
Oak Wilt is a destructive fungus spread by beetles and other insects into oaks through fresh cuts.
Here is how it works.
- A freshly cut or broken branch exudes sap. The smell of the sap brings the beetles or other insects to the sap to feed. But the beetles also bring the fungus up from the ground and into the sap of the tree.
- The fungus gets carried from the cut into the tree and it spreads and kills the tree. Symptoms vary by tree species but generally consist of leaf discoloration, wilt, defoliation, and death.
- But many oaks are also connected by roots. When one tree gets infected, it passes the infection to all the other trees that it is connected to underground.
One cut branch on an oak tree can kill ten or twenty oak trees.
What to Do to Prevent Oak Wilt
Humans are the main cause of oak wilt spread. We cut and trim the trees, opening them up to infection.
- Clean all cutting tools before and after making cuts – because tools can carry the fungus from one tree to another.
- Do not cut oaks in the spring – March and April are the worst time. Trim your oaks in the fall only.
- Thoroughly paint over any cut in an oak immediately after making it- the cut must be sealed within minutes.
- If an oak tree starts to die, get help. The tree has to be removed before it infects other trees. The Forestry service will help you. Be a responsible land owner. When an oak starts to die, contact someone immediately.
Many land-owners, and a lot of tree cutting companies, will clean their tools only before the day’s work begins. And many will do the wound painting only at the end of the day, or end of a job. Not only does that mean many cuts are usually missed, but it can also be far too late. Also beetles have been found in cuts as quickly as 10 minutes after the cut was made. The beetles can smell the sap and as soon as you make the cut they are on their way.
Oaks are a part of the beauty of our area. Lets keep them save.
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