Oak Tree Wilt
Q: I live in town and would like to plant a red oak (probably in the Spring,
as you suggested). But I'm a little concerned about Oak Wilt.
think that in the next 10 to 20 years this disease will be eradicated or
do you think that chances are low that an Oak in the city will become a
Thanks for you excellent Q & A
I would not discourage you from planting a red oak. The probability of it
becoming infected with oak wilt really is extremely low as the disease, at
least in our area, is not wide-ranging.
If we were in Texas I'd be saying
something different, as it is a problem there.
Oak wilt can transfer from tree to tree either via root grafts between a
diseased tree and an un-diseased tree, or by the sap-feeding beetles that
favor oak trees.
Although there are bark-feeding beetles that may vector
the disease, it is believed the sap-feeders are the most likely carrier.
The key is to keep your tree as healthy as possible, and minimize wounding
(which includes pruning). The sap-feeding beetles are attracted to
freshly-damaged areas of the tree, and they are likely to be carrying the
disease spores with them as they have previously visited infected trees!
Avoid pruning when the beetles are most active, which is typically April
through June. In areas where oak wilt may be a factor to consider, I
recommend pruning oaks during the dormant season.
This will allow the
pruning cuts to "dry out" sufficiently so as not to attract the beetles. If
for some reason you can't wait til late fall or winter, a light coating of
tree paint may "hide" the smell of the fresh cut.
Oak wilt is not a major factor in the Cleveland area, although it has been
detected, primarily on the West Side. After planting your red oak, be sure
it's watered properly, fertilized when needed, and avoid any unnecessary
Also, keep an eye on neighboring red oaks for symptoms of oak
wilt. Prompt removal of infected trees is key in helping to control this
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