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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Monday - April 12, 2010

From: New Braunfels, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Trees
Title: Bark flaking off oaks in New Braunfels, TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

We have several large clusters of oak trees. Some of the trees are losing their bark. The bark is flaking off in fairly large pieces; even on some of the trees that are leafing out. Is this a result of the drought or a disease? Is there anything we can do to limit the progression of this process and keep them from dying? Thanks

ANSWER:

When you speak of "clusters," we wonder if you have mottes of live oaks, in which there is always danger of Oak Wilt infection, mostly by transmission through the interlocking root system. The Quercus fusiformis (plateau oak), also called the Escarpment Live Oak, is native to the New Braunfels area and very susceptible to Oak Wilt infection. We suggest that the first thing you do is go to the site of the Texas Oak Wilt Information Partnership and read the various articles about identifying and controlling this damaging disease. Between February 15 and June 15 is the period when the Nitidulid beetle, which carries the fungus, is out looking for damaged oaks from which it can eat some nice sap. The fungus may not be the primary cause of the bark flaking off, but it will certainly be inviting to the fungus-carrying beetle.

We are not plant pathologists and, obviously, cannot see the trees. Live Oaks are far too valuable to take a chance on figuring out what is wrong with them from a distance. We suggest you contact a trained, licensed arborist who can first (hopefully) tell you what is causing the flaking bark and second (really hopefully) help you prevent an invasion of the Oak Wilt fungus. Within the website from the Texas Oak Wilt Partnership is this site on Texas  Counties with Master Gardeners/Master Naturalist Oak Wilt Specialists. Since New Braunfels is in two counties, and both of them have sites on the disease, you can contact them through these links. We would have recommended you contact them under any circumstances because they are closer to the situation and much more likely to know what is causing the bark to flake off. 

Texas A&M AgriLIFE extension office for Guadalupe County

Texas A&M AgriLIFE extension office for Comal County

There are also contacts for assistance from the Texas Forest Service. Those offices are for Comal County, in the Johnson City District and Kerrville/San Antonio District for Guadalupe County. 

 

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