Jan 10, 2024 - News

How to protect Texas trees from destructive oak wilt

an illustration of repeating Axios logos and green trees

Illustration: Tiffany Herring/Axios

Time is winding down for Texans to prune their trees, according to Texas A&M Forest Service's guidelines to prevent oak wilt.

Threat level: Oak wilt is a highly destructive disease that kills trees at "epidemic proportions" throughout the state, especially in Central Texas where live oaks are commonly found.

  • Infected trees die without treatment and can decrease property values and be costly to manage.

Zoom out: Oak wilt is prevalent in Central Texas, but the disease has been confirmed in at least 76 counties throughout the state.

What's happening: Erin Davis, a Texas A&M staff forester, tells Axios that February is the cutoff for pruning because the springtime is a hotbed for sap-seeding beetles that can carry oak wilt spores from a fungal mat to fresh cuts in trees, spreading the infection.

  • The disease is more dangerous in the Hill Country because the roots of native live oaks are interconnected, making it easy for oak wilt to spread.

Be smart: In addition to adhering to the no-pruning time zone, Davis reminds people to paint over fresh cuts to deter beetles and to be mindful of the sources and storage of firewood.

  • Davis says a "pattern of mortality" is used when trying to identify oak wilt in a group of live oaks, which looks at defoliation or the death of trees in the area.
  • Another symptom is brown and yellow leaf veins or veinal necrosis.
  • Foresters spread out throughout Texas can be contacted to help identify oak wilt.
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