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Common Symptoms of Oak Wilt

Written by Tristan Clayton, Project Arborist

Our team at Tree Mann Solutions would like to share the common symptoms of oak wilt observed in Texas in hopes to help educate the public and raise awareness for this highly infectious fungal disease.

Pattern of mortality, likely in the TX hill country.

Pattern of mortality, likely in the TX hill country.

Pattern Of Mortality

Trees don’t ‘just die’; every case of mortality in trees is caused by specific pathogens, cultural practices, or environmental factors; often a combination of all three! A large cluster of stressed, dying, or dead oaks can be an indication of oak wilt spreading through grafted roots. If the trees are near one another there’s a high possibility the trees have grafted roots; creating an easy environment for tree-to-tree infection. If you observe a series of dead trees, or a series of tree decline among numerous specimens, particularly in areas near or adjacent to active oak wilt centers, then there’s a possibility that the culprit is oak wilt.

veinal necrosis on an oak leaf

Veinal necrosis on an oak leaf

leaf scorch on oak leaf

Leaf scorch on red oak leaves

Veinal Necrosis and Leaf Scorch

Leaves will be a quick tool to identify a stressed tree. Disturbances in the roots can result in abnormalities in leaves, particularly scorching, or “tip burn”, and veinal necrosis. If you begin noticing these symptoms on leaves it may become necessary to evaluate the immediate area and look for a pattern of mortality, additional symptomatic leaves, and/or possible causes of the damage. Unfortunately, there is no 100% accurate symptom of oak wilt, tissue tests are the most reliable form of oak wilt identification but can result in false negatives. Veinal necrosis can occur due to lightning damage, and leaf scorch can be caused by numerous root and leaf pathogens. Just because you notice symptomatic leaves is not necessarily a guarantee that the cause is oak wilt. Consulting with an arborist or inquiring about active oak wilt sites will provide additional information to determine the likelihood of infection.

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