October 30, 2013 – COLLEGE
STATION, Texas – With the long-anticipated
arrival of cooler weather, now is the perfect opportunity to enjoy some time by
the campfire but be careful to pay close attention to the firewood you are
picking. Transporting and storing diseased wood is a known means of spreading
the devastating oak wilt fungus to previously uninfected neighborhoods. Utilizing
these prevention steps is the key to safeguarding against spreading the disease
through the selection and use of firewood:
- Select well-seasoned firewood. Well-seasoned wood is cut before the
summer and is typically dry with loose bark and cracked ends. Avoid oak wood that appears unseasoned, that may have tight
bark and cut ends which show no cracks or signs of aging. The extreme heat and
drying of a full Texas summer effectively destroys the fungus in cut firewood.
- Safely store unknown sources of
firewood. If the oak
wood comes from an unknown source and it is not well seasoned, cover the
woodpile with a clear piece of plastic. Burying the edges of the plastic will
prevent the entry or exit of insects that might have been attracted to diseased
wood and fungal mats.
- Destroy diseased red oaks. A knowledgeable arborist or forester
should diagnose red oaks (i.e., Texas red, blackjack or shumard oak) that die
rapidly (2-3 weeks) or in groups (2 or more trees over several years) for oak
wilt. Trees suspected to have died recently from oak wilt should be destroyed
by burning, burying or chipping. The heat of a fire destroys the fungus and the
smoke emitted poses no threat to healthy trees. When planning to do any outdoor
burning, be sure and check with local officials to see if an outdoor burning ban is in place for your county and take care not to burn on
windy days with low humidity.
- Avoid wounding oaks during vulnerable
seasons. The general
recommendation is to avoid injuries to oaks from February through June. The
best times for pruning of oaks are during the heat of summer (minimal spore
production) or the cold of winter (minimal insect activity).
- Paint all oak wounds including
Throughout the year, immediately apply a thin coat of latex or pruning paint to
all fresh wounds and other injuries that expose the inner bark or sapwood of
oaks. This prevents contaminated sap beetles from infecting the wound with oak
especially west of IH 35, should be especially careful in not transporting
recently killed oak trees off of ranch land. The probability exists of moving
red oaks that have died of oak wilt and having these trees produce disease
spores while being stored. If in doubt, again always cover the wood with clear
plastic and seal the edges with rocks or soil.
Oak firewood is an important commodity to
Texans, whether it’s used for firing up the barbecue pit or for warming up on a
chilly hunter’s morning. By selecting well-seasoned, disease-free firewood and
by following other disease prevention guidelines, homeowners are taking the correct
steps to prevent a new oak wilt disease outbreak in their neighborhood. Please
visit www.texasoakwilt.org for more information on this devastating tree disease.