Oak trees and humans have a lot in common when it comes to their health. We both drink clean water, eat nutrient rich foods, and take vitamins. Why? This is our attempt to be proactive on our well-being. It gives us the most favorable chances of not catching illnesses spreading in this big world, especially life-threatening ones. We rely on our bodies to show us symptoms of illness to know when our health is in questionable status. And we rely on knowledgeable professionals who can care for and advise us in a more efficient way than we can for ourselves.

Oak trees use these same principles. They use principles such as preventative protection, showing symptoms, and relying on professional attention to ensure its long lifespan of health just like humans.

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Much like the concept of clean water, nutrient rich foods, and vitamins for humans, oak trees have their own efficient methods of ensuring long lifespans. Pruning can help. Properly pruning an oak tree’s branches ensures the trees overall health and well-being. How? By providing it the proper structure the tree needs to grow strong branches. In areas where the lethal disease oak wilt is present, we recommend to prune oaks during the cooler months when insects that spread the disease are less active.

What is oak wilt?

Oak wilt is a disease caused by the fungus, Ceratocystis fagacearum. It attacks most oak trees. Infected red oak trees die quickly while the white oak trees have a chance at recovery. No oak tree is immune to this life-threatening disease. It’s increasingly important to protect healthy oaks from the contagion, just as it is with humans to ensure survival against a life-threatening disease.

Timing is imperative for oak wilt prevention

The deadly disease spreads by sap-feeding bark beetles that also feed on the oak wilt fungal mat of infected trees. The beetle then moves onto other oaks in the area and can infect them by feeding on fresh wounds. These woulds come from pruning or storm damage. The sap-beetles are not active in cooler seasons, which reduces the risk of oak wilt infection. Retired Penn State Extension plant pathology specialist, Gary Moorman always recommended pruning oaks from November to mid-April to avoid infection from insect activity.

Although occasional pruning is necessary to help maintain an oak tree’s health, pruning is not recommended on an annual basis. An oak tree should be pruned approximately every 3-5 years to ensure proper growth form and structure.

How to recognize an oak wilt infection

As humans, we rely on our bodies to tell us when we need to see a doctor to receive professional treatment for an illness we may be suffering form. For the oak tree, if the symptoms of oak wilt begin to show, it is essential to call your local arborist and begin treatment steps as soon as you can. Recognizing these symptoms is key, as it means life or death for your oaks.

In red oaks, oak wilt typically starts at the top or outer portions of the crown and quickly moves downward. Leaves wilt and begin to turn brown. Some leaves remain green but a darker, duller shade than normal. Under the bark of branches with wilted leaves you may find discolored sapwood.

White oaks show disease differently. Oak wilt shows up in a more scattered fashion, with a branch every once in a while showing wilt and discoloration. The leaf symptoms are similar to the red oak group and there may be discolored sapwood under the bark as well.

As oat wilk spreads relatively fast, it is important to look for these symptoms and contact your local arborist if you believe your oak trees may be infected.

Get assistance!

Properly pruning oaks is helpful to ensure it lives a long, healthy life. Oak Trees should be pruned over the cooler months to help prevent the spread of oak wilt, making November to March the perfect time to do so. Pruning should only be done occasionally and only to the extent your oak needs. Cutting too much back at one time can diminish its growth, while cutting too little will not be enough to reap the positive effects pruning brings by providing strong structure to the tree.

Make sure you are equipped to prune an oak before beginning the job. If you have any questions regarding how, when, or would like to reserve your spot on our schedule for this year’s pruning, contact us here! Our team here at Cutting Edge Tree Professionals is happy to help with all your tree needs!