Before You Trim An Oak Tree, You Need To Know About Oak Wilt

Oak trees are beautiful. If you're lucky enough to have a healthy oak tree in your yard – or even more than one – you want to take the best care of it possible. But like all trees, oaks have their own diseases. One of the most serious diseases affecting oak trees in the United States right now is oak wilt, and improper trimming and pruning is a big part of how this disease is spread.

What Is Oak Wilt?

Oak wilt is a fungal disease that can affect both red oaks and white oaks, although red oaks are more susceptible to it. It is most common throughout the Midwest, spreading through oak forests and killing many oak trees; however, it has also shown up in Texas as well as the Appalachians.

This fungus is deadly to oak trees because it clogs the channels in a tree's vascular system, which the tree uses to draw water up from the ground. This causes the oak's leaves to wilt and die, starving and killing the tree. In areas where the forests are primarily oak, the fungus can spread quickly, doing a large amount of damage.

How Can Tree Trimming Help Spread Oak Wilt?

Oak wilt spreads in two main ways. It can spread from oak to oak when multiple oak trees form interconnected roots underground. For this reason, foresters and arborists try to remove diseased oaks as quickly as possible.

The second way, however, is the main problem for tree trimming and residential oaks: sap-feeding beetles. When beetles feed on the sap of infected trees, they pick up the oak wilt fungus and carry it with them. If they then feed on a healthy tree, they will spread the fungus to that tree. And since they feed on sap, they are attracted to trees that have been cut or wounded – like freshly-pruned trees.

What's The Best Way To Trim Oak Trees?

In general, many tree trimmers recommend pruning in the spring. This gives trees a good chance to heal from the pruning and put forth new, healthy growth. Trimming an oak tree and preventing the spread of oak wilt, however, changes this; you should definitely not prune oak trees in the spring. The fungus-spreading beetles will be attracted to the fresh wounds in a trimmed tree. So instead, you want to have any pruning or trimming done when there will be no active beetles to come feed on sap and spread the disease.

This means having tree work done on oak trees in the winter. Rather than focus on a specific date, look at the weather conditions. If you're having an unseasonably warm October, it would be better to wait; however, if the weather has turned cold, pruning may be fine. Michigan State University recommends pruning while daytime temperatures stay below 50 degrees.

For more information about pruning trees, contact a company like R. L. Elliott Enterprises, Inc..