Differentiating Oak Wilt from Oak Decline

Oak wilt within Austin, Texas has become quite prevalent over recent years. With this prevalence, unfortunately, comes the loss of many oak trees. However, there are several diseases which can affect oaks, the effects of which can be similar to that of oak wilt and perhaps even a bit confusing. Oak decline is one such disease. Let’s examine ways in which to differentiate oak wilt and oak decline.

Oak wilt is a disease which produces a fungus that essentially clogs the water-conducting vessels of an oak. Without the fluidity of this vital element necessary for its survival, an oak will succumb to wilting–hence, the disease’s namesake–and eventually death. Generally, the disease is spread in one of two manners. First, interconnected root systems are frequently responsible for spreading the disease to healthy, previously unaffected oaks proximal to the diseased tree. Second, sap-feeding beetles are responsible for picking up the spores that produce the disease while feeding on an infected tree and transporting them to previously unaffected, but wounded trees when their feeding site changes. The spores are introduced to the wounded tree, thereby exposing it to the devastating effects of oak wilt. Spore mats, found under areas of cracked bark, are generally evidence of the exposure of a tree to oak wilt through the presence of sap-feeding beetles Although the timeline for the demise of a tree affected by oak wilt can vary based on the species, it typically succumbs quickly.

Oak decline is a disease in which several injurious stressors simultaneously affect and lead to the decline of a tree. These stressors may include prolonged drought, late spring defoliation, root fungi, and wood-boring insects. The most notable indicator of the presence of oak decline is deterioration of the canopy. Additionally, unlike oak wilt, trees affected by oak decline tend to retain their leaves, even after their death, and the leaves do not reflect the same patterns of necrosis that leaves of trees affected by oak wilt display. If removed, a dark stain on the outer bark of an affected tree gives visual to the site affected by the wood-boring insects. Another noteworthy and defining difference is that trees affected by oak decline may show evidence of the decline over an extended period of time, often years. If questions remain, an Austin tree trimming professional can assist with the examination of a tree’s branches and leaves to help determine the correct diagnosis.

Although there are notable differences between oak wilt and oak decline, there are also similarities that may cause some confusion. Consult an Austin tree care service for professional assistance in diagnosing your landscaping oaks.

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 https://www.centraltexastreecare.com.

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