A Homeowner’s Guide to Oak Wilt Treatment & Prevention

May 9, 2022

Oak wilt is a clear and present danger to red and live oaks across north Texas. We treat oak wilt regularly, so we decided to answer critical questions on oak wilt and oak wilt treatment.

However, if you suspect that one of your trees is infected with Oak wilt, it’s best to consult a certified arborist.

Oak wilt treatment must be conducted quickly by a qualified arborist. When Oak Wilt strikes, don’t wait. Call Arbor Leaf Tree Care right away.

What is Oak Wilt?

Oak wilt is a dangerous fungal disease that threatens oak trees across North America. 

This fungus damages trees by disrupting their water-conducting system. Once the fungus has spread to a certain point, the tree wilts and loses leaves. Left untreated, oak wilt will eventually kill a tree.

What Causes Oak Wilt?

Oak wilt is caused by a quick-growing fungus that infiltrates the bark of oak trees. The fungus grows into the water-carrying xylem of the tree.

With the xylem blocked, water cannot reach the upper parts of the tree. Leaves then wilt and fall in a process called defoliation. An oak cannot survive without its summer leaves.

Is Oak Wilt Contagious?

Yes. Oak wilt can spread to other trees even after the affected tree has died. That’s because spore-bearing mats of oak wilt fungus grow beneath the bark of dead trees.

Oak wilt can also spread between related trees underground through their interconnected root systems. 

Furthermore, sap-feeding beetles can introduce oak wilt to a previously unaffected area. These beetles introduce oak wilt spores to fresh wounds. The result is that oak wilt treatment and prevention is difficult. Homeowners need to spot oak wilt first, then call a certified arborist immediately. Time is of the essence.

Oak Wilt Prevention

The best way to prevent oak wilt is to remove any affected trees, including trees that have already died from the disease. The earlier these trees are removed, the better.

Homeowners can stop the spread of oak wilt using the following tips:

  • Avoid pruning trees between February 1 and June 30
  • Hire a qualified arborist trained in proper pruning
  • Have your arborist paint all wounds or prune cuts immediately
  • Only move firewood that you’ve allowed to dry for more than one year 

Furthermore, a certified arborist can administer oak wilt treatment by injecting high-value trees with the fungicide propiconazole.

Once a tree has become infected, however, the highest priority is limiting its spread to nearby trees. Arborists do this through trenching (to avoid root-to-root spread) and destroying infected trees (to avoid sap beetle transmission).

Signs of Oak Wilt

The first sign of oak wilt is typically dramatic leaf loss from a tree’s upper canopy. These symptoms then progress down the tree, which rapidly loses its summer leaves. 

Unlike during autumn leaf loss, leaves infected with oak wilt fall to the ground while still partially green. Affected leaves may range in color from dull green to brown and may appear water-soaked or damaged. 

In live oaks, yellow and brown leaf veins may form. This is called venial necrosis

Live oaks infected with oak wilt defoliate and die within 3 to 6 months. Affected red oaks can defoliate and die much more quickly—within 4 to 6 weeks.

When in doubt, a certified arborist can obtain specialized laboratory testing to confirm an oak wilt diagnosis.

When to Cut Down Oak Wilt Trees

The best time to cut down trees affected by oak wilt is winter when the fungus is least likely to spread. Once felled, the infected wood needs to be properly disposed of. 

If you think you need an infected oak removed, be sure and talk to a certified arborist at Arbor Leaf Tree Care beforehand. There’s a good chance we can treat oak wilt and save your tree. 

how Arborists Handle Oak wilt treatment

Certified arborists administer oak wilt treatment in the following ways:

  • Prevent root-to-root transmission by trenching or root severing.
  • Remove infected oaks that are close to healthy oak trees
  • Treat infected trees with fungicide injections

Most homeowners do not want to cut down their trees. Scheduling an evaluation is fast and inexpensive. A certified arborist will examine your tree and let you know which options are best. 

Our Recommendation

We see high success rates with fungicide injections, especially if you catch the oak wilt infection early. Injections are also an effective method of prevention. 

If you need local oak wilt prevention or oak wilt treatment, give Arbor Leaf Tree Care a call at (817)-862-7735

Brandon Crowell

Brandon Crowell is the owner and operator of Arbor Leaf Tree Care. He is a certified arborist who, for more than 18 years, has helped Dallas/Fort Worth-area homeowners retain the natural beauty and value of their properties. He is on call 24/7, 365 days a year.
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