Identifying Oak Wilt

Oak species are frequently affected by oak wilt in various geographical locations in the United States, including as far south as Texas. In particular, the city of Austin has seen its fair share of the devastating effects of oak wilt over recent years. The most important way to avoid the effects of oak wilt is to prevent it altogether. However, because it can be spread quite easily, learning to identify the disease is essential. Early identification of an affected tree may result in the preservation of other proximal trees.

One common way to identify oak wilt is by careful examination of patterns on the tree’s leaves. This is also known as foliar symptoms. There are particular differences between the foliar symptoms of live and red oaks. Diseased live oaks typically suffer from veinal necrosis. Essentially, the veins of a diseased live oak initially turn yellow, then turn brown. This is indicative of the diseased state of the oak. Defoliation occurs swiftly. Diseased red oaks typically display attributes of oak wilt based on maturity. Young leaves generally succumb to the disease easily and wilt quickly. Mature green leaves generally pale to a lighter shade of green and then bronze. The change in color, and overall tree health, is noted as it starts on the extremities of the leaves and works its way inward toward the center. Defoliation occurs slightly more slowly than with live oaks, taking anywhere from four to six weeks.

The presence of fungal mats is an indicator of oak wilt. Fungal mats are the powerhouse for the production of the spores responsible for oak wilt. Fungal mats are generally located underneath the tree bark. A distinctive crack in the tree’s bark typically denotes the presence of a fungal mat beneath it. It is not uncommon to also note a scent around the area of the fungal mat. It is frequently described as a fruity, fermented smell. This is the same scent that attracts the carriers of the disease-causing spores, the nitdulid.

If similar symptoms as described above are noted, it is quite possible that the culprit of such symptoms is indeed oak wilt. However, if uncertain, consult an Austin tree trimming specialist for more information and assistance. He or she can help you to determine the cause of a tree’s symptoms, including if the cause is oak wilt. Consider having an Austin tree care professional to assist you in appropriately collecting samples from any fungal mats that may be found on the tree and sending the samples in to a laboratory for confirmation of the disease. This information can be a valuable tool in helping to determine the best and necessary course of action to protect other surviving, healthy oaks proximal to any diseased one.

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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