Oak Wilt Disease: Symptoms, Prevention, And Treatment

Trees are a very important component of your metro Chicago area yard: they provide summer shade, a winter windbreak and can be the perfect place for a treehouse or a relaxing reading spot. Not to mention, trees can also be a big investment. Maybe your trees are a few decades old, or perhaps you started some saplings last season and are hoping they make it through the winter. Whatever the case, if you have oak trees in your yard or on your property, you should be aware of oak wilt disease. Oak wilt is a fungal disease that can take your stately oaks from large and beautifully colored to brown, barren, and bark-stained. Thankfully, there are some key prevention methods and a few treatment options to make sure your oak trees last for many years to come. oak wilt

Common Symptoms of Oak Wilt Disease

If you see any of these symptoms in your oak trees, your plants might be suffering from oak wilt. Red oak and white oak species can be affected differently, with the disease process taking much longer in white oaks and typically just affecting one or two branches near the top of the tree. Keep an eye out for symptoms such as: 

  • Leaves curling up 
  • Discoloration in leaves to light green, bronze, or tan color, beginning at the edges and moving in towards the center of each leaf
  • Brown or black stain in the sapwood of wilted branches
  • Vertical cracks in the bark of the tree that have mats of fungus spores underneath
  • Quick defoliation of the tree, even in late summer
  • In white oaks, leaves will turn light brown or straw-colored, with discoloration moving from the tip of the leaf to the base
  • In white oaks, leaves will also curl up but usually won’t fall off the tree branches

What You Can Do To Prevent Oak Wilt From Infecting Your Oak Trees

Make Sure Your Trees Are Healthy And Nourished

Oak wilt can kill your oak trees in as little as a few weeks, so preventing the disease from getting started is essential. The first and most important defense against any fungal disease is making sure your trees and shrubs are healthy and well-nourished. The healthier your plants are, the better they will be able to defend themselves from pests and diseases like oak wilt. Invest in a comprehensive tree and shrub care program like the one offered by Pure Prairie Organics, which will provide much-needed fertilizer and help keep disease-spreading pests off of your plants. 

Only Prune During The Winter
Another important step in preventing oak wilt disease is only pruning your oak trees during the winter months when they are dormant. Oak wilt can enter your tree through injuries in the bark caused by storm damage, pruning, and tool damage, which produce sap as the tree tries to heal its wound. This sap attracts sap-eating beetles, who can introduce the fungus ceratocystis fagacearum that causes oak wilt to a tree. Here in the Chicago metropolitan area, the growing season is when sap-eating beetles are most active. Pruning during the growing season can make your trees highly susceptible to oak wilt. The only time you should trim your oak trees is after their leaves have fallen off, or after the first hard frost. You should also be careful when handling lawnmowers or other tools around your oak trees to avoid scraping or wounding the tree accidentally. 

Keep An Eye On Your Tree’s Roots
Oak wilt can also spread via root grafts underground when the roots of adjacent trees grow together. So, if you have multiple oak trees growing in your yard, the only way to prevent the fungus from spreading from an infected tree to another is a four-foot deep trench around the infected tree’s drip line. 

Treatment Methods for the Chicago Metropolitan Area
Because oak wilt can kill a tree very rapidly, if you see symptoms of the disease, you need to act fast to save your tree if possible and prevent the disease from potentially spreading to other trees in your yard or neighborhood. Unfortunately for red oaks that succumb incredibly quickly to oak wilt, fungicide treatments are usually not worth the money. However, fungicide injections can be effective for oak-wilt-affected white oaks if done early enough in the disease process. 

If you do have a tree in your yard dying from oak wilt, make sure to remove the tree and any infected wood from your yard before the next growing season to prevent spreading the disease to any other oak trees. You also shouldn’t store any infected wood or move logs from an infected tree without removing the bark that can still spread the oak wilt fungal spores to other trees. 

For All Your Tree And Shrub Care Needs in the Metro Chicago Area, Call Pure Prairie Organics

If you have oak trees in your yard or any other types of trees and shrubs, you need to call the professionals at Pure Prairie Organics. Oak wilt is one of the most common tree and shrub diseases we see in Illinois, and our organic, all-natural tree and shrub care program can help make sure your oaks and any other trees and shrubs you have aren’t seriously affected by diseases. Our tree and shrub care program includes five fertilizer applications throughout the summer and early fall to keep your plants nourished, healthy, and ready to face whatever nature throws at them. In addition, we also offer insect control and fungicide protection options to neutralize these threats and help keep diseases out of your yard. 

Visit our website to see more information on our organic tree and shrub care program, as well as our all-natural lawn care options, organic-based blended lawn care program, pest control, and core aeration and overseeding services. You can also reach out via our online contact form for an instant quote or give us a call at 630-780-7939. And for more information on how you can best take care of your lawn and garden, be sure to keep reading our monthly blog!

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