Oak Wilt Treatment in Minneapolis and St. Paul, MN

Oak wilt is an aggressive disease that is caused by a fungus that clogs the water-conducting vessels of oak trees. It is very similar to Dutch Elm Disease in elms and likely native to North America. Oak wilt can infect all species of trees. The red oak group of oak species are the most susceptible. The disease is so aggressive that some species such as the Northern pin oak and the Northern red oak can die within weeks of being infected.

How does oak wilt spread?
Oak wilt can spread below ground when the roots of an infected tree fuse with a nearby healthy tree. An infected tree that’s as far as 50 feet away can be a threat to a healthy tree. Oak wilt can also be spread by beetles, which transfer spores from an infected tree to a healthy tree that has a fresh wound. If infected beetles find fresh wounds on oaks during the main infection period (in the spring), a new oak wilt infection can result.

The University of Minnesota provides more information on oak wilt risk in Minnesota.

How does oak wilt kill trees?
Oak wilt causes a tree to die from a lack of water. Spores infect the vascular system of the tree and the tree responds by shutting down the flow. Usually, a red oak tree infected with oak wilt will die in one season.

Symptoms of oak wilt are easy to spot. Wilting and leaf loss starts at the top and spreads rapidly, a few branches at a time. Leaves usually fall in large amounts and are a faded green, brown, or both, with some green left at the base of the midrib only.

What can be done to prevent or treat oak wilt?
Fortunately, oak wilt in Minneapolis and St. Paul is, in most cases, manageable. Your best method of prevention is to avoid wounding or pruning your oak trees in the spring and early summer, and to stay aware of any oak wilt cases in your neighborhood. However, there’s no cure for oak wilt in a red oak once infected. If caught early enough, it is sometimes possible to save infected trees in the white oak group, which includes white, bur and bi-color oak trees.

Oak Tree Pruning Recommendations
Since beetles are drawn to the sweet sap of an oak tree’s wounds, oak trees should not be pruned in the spring or summer months. If a tree is damaged by a storm or otherwise wounded during this time, the wound should be treated immediately. Most infections happen within the first half hour of a new wound. Valuable trees that are wounded in the spring or summer can be effectively treated with systemic fungicide injections, if it is done promptly. Injections by a license pesticide applicator can also help prevent the spread of oak wilt in healthy trees.

Trenching can also help contain the spread of oak wilt from an infected tree to nearby healthy oak trees, but this requires special equipment and should be done by experienced professionals only. Planning and installation of mechanical root graft barriers can be challenging, which is why a professional tree care company is required.

What do you do if you find your trees have oak wilt?
If you do have a tree that has oak wilt or died from oak wilt, the tree should be disposed of by a professional tree care company. Call an ISA Certified Arborist® before you take any action; otherwise there is a risk of spreading the disease. Wood from infected trees should be debarked or promptly destroyed, and never transferred to other areas.

Oak trees are the most numerous and valuable group of naturally occurring shade and shelter trees in Minnesota. You can rely on the ISA Certified Arborists® and tree experts at S&S for professional analysis and treatment of oak wilt in Minneapolis, St. Paul or the greater Twin Cities area!

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