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Friday - April 10, 2009

From: Schertz, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Trees
Title: Young oak tree with dead branches
Answered by: Nan Hampton


I purchased my home new a year ago and we have three young oak trees that came with the house. Two of the trees are doing great and their new leaves have grown in. One tree however still has dead leaves on it. The branches appear to be dead but there are new shoots growing from the trunk. It's about 7 1/2 feet tall amd the trunk is about 6 inches in diameter. What should we do? Thank you for your time.


If the branches are really dead, there isn't any way to revive them.  However, it sounds as if there is at least some life left in the tree.  You can wait a bit to see if it continues to leaf out further up the trunk and onto any of the branches or parts of the branches.  This is probably not likely, but you don't really have anything to lose by waiting a few weeks. When you are convinced that you know what part is dead, prune it away and let the rest grow out as it will.  This may give you a strange-shaped tree.  I would give it a good soaking periodically until you determine how much is dead.  If you are convinced it is mostly dead, you might want to start over with another young tree. 

If you do decide to prune, you should consider carefully what time of year you do it. Oak wilt is a serious disease of several species of oaks that occur in or adjacent to Guadalupe County—Quercus buckleyi (Buckley oak), Quercus marilandica (blackjack oak), Quercus fusiformis (plateau live oak), Quercus shumardii (Shumard's oak), and Quercus virginiana (live oak).  Other oaks in your area—Quercus macrocarpa (bur oak), Quercus stellata (post oak) and Quercus muehlenbergii (chinkapin oak)—are less susceptible to the fungus that causes oak wilt.

To help prevent oak wilt the Texas Forest Service recommends NOT pruning oak trees from February through June—the period of the year when the beetles that transfer the fungus to the tree are most active. Additionally, no matter what time of year it is, you should paint cuts and wounds with tree wound paint as soon as they are made.


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