If you have ever visited East Texas, you will find that it does not quite fit the traditional Texas stereotype of open fields and ranches. Quite the contrary, East Texas is extremely forested and is famous for its huge, towering oak trees. Oaks are strong, hardy trees that can provide decades of shade, and their trunks make for excellent firewood. Unfortunately, these mighty trees are disappearing at an alarming rate due to a fungal disease called oak wilt.
According to texasoakwilt.org, a website specifically focused on educating the public about this deadly disease, oak wilt is caused by the fungus Ceratocystis fagacearum. This fungus disrupts the tree’s ability to pull water from the soil and eventually causes its death. Red oaks, such as the Spanish Oak and Water Oak which are common in Texas, are particularly susceptible to the disease. The fungus is spread primarily through insects that feed on tree sap. The fungal mats that form give off a fruity aroma that the insects are attracted to, and they then spread the fungal spores to other trees. The fungus can also be spread through the roots of the trees, so if one tree in a cluster is infected, it is likely that the surrounding trees will be affected as well. Humans are also responsible for the spread of oak wilt by moving the infected wood to other locations, which is why learning to identify the disease is so important. Unfortunately, there is no perfect cure for the disease. Although antifungals can be used on trees to curb the effects of the disease and extend their lives, this is only a short term solution. Efforts aimed at eradicating this disease focus on prevention and the removal of infected trees. If an infected tree is in the immediate vicinity of others, some healthy-looking trees may also be removed if their roots are too close together or interconnected.
As a homeowner in Texas, there is a strong probability that you have an oak tree somewhere on your property. Even past central Texas and into the hill country, large oak trees are commonly placed on properties to provide shade. If you suspect your trees might be afflicted with oak blight, or if you have already lost one, then the first step will be to call Austin tree care professionals who can advise you on how to prevent the further spread of the disease. Without treating the fungus, more and more trees will continue to die.
The beautiful oak trees in Texas are in serious danger, and everyone should know about oak wilt and how to prevent its spread. Pruning your oak trees can make them vulnerable to insects that carry the diseases, so make sure to only prune in the winter time, or else cover the wounds with paint to protect your trees. If you a tree on your property dies due to oak wilt, take great that the firewood is transported safely so that other trees are not affected. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.