May 1, 2013 — AUSTIN,
Texas — The mighty Central Texas oak trees that help shade homes and beautify
neighborhoods are falling prey to an incurable and deadly disease.
Oak wilt is
a fungal disease that has caused tree deaths in 74 Texas counties.
infected with oak wilt can spread the disease to surrounding oaks via their
interconnected root systems. When that happens, the only way to stop further
spread is by digging trenches to break the root connections.
disease also can be spread by insects, which strike primarily from February
through June. Sap-feeding beetles are attracted to the sweet-smelling spore
mats produced by infected red oaks. The disease is spread when those insects
fly off to feed on a healthy red oak or a live oak with a fresh wound.
A&M Forest Service Forester Eric Beckers said oak wilt is primarily seen in
the central part of the state but confirmed cases of the disease have been reported
in the Texas Panhandle and eastern areas.
talking about trees that have been in the landscape for a century or more. We
don’t replace those trees overnight,” Beckers said, adding that the death of
such majestic trees can lead to drops in property values. “Preventing oak wilt
is the key.”
A wound is
created any time bark is removed and wood is exposed, Beckers said. That can
happen with the simplest of tasks — clearing brush, pruning limbs or even
pushing a lawn mower over a bare tree root.
wood produces sap, which attracts the sap-feeding beetles, Beckers said,
stressing the importance of avoiding wounds in the spring, painting tree wounds
year-round and destroying diseased red oaks.
want to have to manage oak wilt. That means you have it. You want to prevent it
from happening,” Beckers said. “Oak wilt is a bear. It’s very difficult to
Visit www.texasoakwilt.org for more information or to contact a forester specializing in oak
Eric Beckers, Resource Forester in Austin
Regional Forest Health Coordinator in Austin