All manner of oaks including red oaks, white oaks, and live oaks, are susceptible to oak wilt. In very recent years, oak wilt has destroyed many oaks of various species in Austin, Texas. There is considerable information which explains specifics regarding the disease. Such information may define what oak wilt is, how it impacts oaks, how to prevent it, and how to manage circumstances when a tree is diagnosed with the disease so that proximal, healthy trees are unaffected. At the crux of the issue, however, is what is known as a fungal mat. The purpose of this article is to better understand the rather significant role fungal mats play in the onset and eventual diagnosis of oak wilt.

When an oak has wilted and died, it may produce a mat. On the mat are spores responsible for the fungus that produces and spreads oak wilt. Fungal mats expand in such a way underneath the bark that they cause the exposed outer bark of the affected oak to split open. The mats also produce a fermented, fruity aroma that attracts vectors, primarily small, sap-feeding beetles known as Nitidulid. The vectors feed on the sap, and as they do so, they inadvertently collect the spores. It is the accumulation of these spores by, and the unrestrained movements of, the vectors that allows the spores to be spread, exposing once healthy oaks to their likely demise.

Although oak wilt may be spread through interconnected root systems, the spread of the disease through vectors which feed on fungal mats is equally problematic. This is because the vectors constantly seek out feeding sources and unless controlled by some manner of insecticide are, again, virtually unrestrained in this process. Unfortunately, any oak that has suffered a wound produces wound sap to which, much like fungal mats, the vectors are innately attracted.

Wounds may come from a variety of sources. Environmental causes may include high winds, hail damage, or heavy snow or ice that breaks tree limbs. Man-made causes may include nicks from mowers, automobile damage to the tree, or inappropriate trimming. Consult an Austin tree trimming professional regarding appropriate trimming methods, the use of which will sustain the tree, preventing the formation of fungal mats, the subsequent unwanted infiltration of vectors, and the continued spread of oak wilt.

Once the vectors land on a wound to feed, the tree immediately becomes exposed to oak wilt. The spores germinate quickly, clogging the water- conducting vessels that are the lifeline to their continued viability. Therefore, the immediate painting of any fresh wound with a wound or latex paint is the most reliable way to prevent vectors from exposing a healthy oak to oak wilt.

There are many cyclical factors that contribute to oak wilt disease. Fungal mats and the spread of harmful spores through vectors are only a small fraction of the overall cycle. For additional questions or concerns about Austin oak wilt, oak wilt treatment, and overall evasion of this crippling disease, contact an Austin tree care professional for assistance.

About the Author: Andrew Johnson is the owner of Central Texas Tree Care, a leading provider of Austin tree service in Central Texas. Certified ISA Austin arborist services including: tree trimming, tree removal, tree care and oak wilt treatment. For more information on Austin tree service, please visit

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