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Oak Wilt- When Is the Right Time to Say Goodbye to that Old Oak?

Oak trees aren’t typically sold in nurseries because usually, they’re simply inherited. This is because they are so slow growing that the typical homeowner doesn’t bother with planting an oak in hopes of having a nice, large, old shade tree for the kids in five years. Oaks simply don’t grow that fast, and the immediate satisfaction of planting an oak makes them hard to market. But, if you own property with a large oak on it, you probably have formed some sort of emotional attachment to it. It’s understandable. Old oaks are such valuable staples in local micro-environments. Many animals depend on them. During the winter, their beautiful, gnarled form is charming. When they’re leafed, they’re a symbol of all that’s comforting from childhood days. Their acorns feed the wildlife. They also increase property values. But if you’ve noticed in the past year or two that your oak may have been affected by the dreaded oakwilt disease, you may have to start thinking about the inevitable. You’re going to have to cut that giant old oak tree down. But, depending on the type of oak you have, you might have some other options. You might not even have oakwilt at all.

Oakwilt is a very characteristic disease. It’s fast acting on red oaks (killing entire trees in one season) and less fast acting on white or bur oaks (kills the entire tree in a couple of years). Because it’s caused by a fungus that infects the vascular system of the tree from an open wound or from spreading in root grafts from two trees underground, you will literally see the tree die from top to bottom and move across the entire tree in a vertical line as the disease progresses, since the vascular tissues run from top to bottom of the tree. A tree that is on its way out will look like it’s been split in two- one side of the tree will look fine, the other side will have foliage turning reddish and brown, and falling off.
Many people who live in the eastern US and Texas are well aware of this disease and are quick to want a diagnosis if they see an oak of theirs struggling. And many times, companies that specialize in tree removal will diagnose a tree with oak wilt and remove it, playing on the safe side (but also taking the business for the sake of having business). There are times when a tree doesn’t have oak wilt, but could be struggling from a hot or dry several years. There are also many diseases that aren’t harmful in the long term that don’t spread from tree to tree, and therefore don’t require tree removal. If an old oak tree is dying and it doesn’t have oak wilt, consider leaving the tree. Dying and dead trees provide a very valuable service to natural lands, forests, and offer refuge and food for wildlife.

Before you decide to remove that giant old oak tree, make sure you check and double check with reputable professionals who know the oakwilt disease to make sure your oak tree does in fact have oak wilt. If it does, make sure you hire a removal service that knows how and when to remove the infected trees so that the infection doesn’t spread. But make sure you know that your tree does have the disease and do everything you can to not spread it further.

When pruning any tree with an ATSS Pole Saw be sure to disinfect the blade after each cut as disease spreads easily and quickly.
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