The oak tree is as much an icon to the Texas landscape as cattle and pick-up trucks. To walk into a grove of Live Oaks settled along a deep green pasture is hiking bliss, I just can't think of a more perfect tree for our landscape around here.
While Live Oaks are more a tree for the Hill Country and south (the hard freeze of February showed that), there are a wide variety of native species that do quite well in the North Texas landscape.
But since 1961, there has been a deadly disease creeping across our area taking down some of these magnificent trees. Oak Wilt.
Oak Wilt is a fungus first discovered in Dallas County. It has since spread up and down the I-35 corridor. It can spread across the shared roots of the trees (traveling around 70-90 feet a year) or by a beetle that feeds on the fungus and spreads it to other, non-infected oak trees. The fungus attacks ALL oak varieties, but some are more susceptible. Red Oaks can die within 4-6 weeks after catching the disease. Oak Wilt can kill a Live Oak in about half a year.
There is no cure but there is prevention. This story talks about that but probably the MOST important thing to remember is NOT to trim your oak trees in the wet season. That means leaving the trees alone from February into the drying days of mid-June or early July.
The fungus hates hot, dry weather. Also, any pruning cuts you make on your oak trees you want to cover with pruning paint (or just outdoor latex paint). This keeps the bug from landing on your healthy tree and giving it the disease.
If you think you have Oak Wilt showing up on your oak, get a professional opinion as quick as you can. If it is a very important tree in your landscape and you catch it early, you can save the tree. It is expensive but a series of injections of fungicide will keep the fungus as bay.
For much more on this disease, how to spot it and what to do if your tree has it, please go to this website.
I want to thank Rachel McGregor of the Texas Tree Foundation for all her work along with her organization in fighting this disease across north Texas. All of us must do our part to slow the spread of this fungus. Our oak trees are counting on us to work together.
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