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Mr. Smarty Plants - Susceptibility of Shumard oaks to oak wilt

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Saturday - March 25, 2006

From: Kyle, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Trees
Title: Susceptibility of Shumard oaks to oak wilt
Answered by: Dean Garrett

QUESTION:

I have planted a red oak tree. I am still trying to locate the ID tag for the type. I planted it two or three years ago. I purchased the tree from either Lowes or Home Depot. Is there a type of red oak that is not susceptible to oak wilt? Shumard oak? A neighborhood 10 miles away has had oak wilt. Should I remove mine and consider a different tree for the neighborhood?

ANSWER:

Unfortunately, red oaks are more susceptible to oak wilt than any other oaks. There is no red oak species that is immune to the disease. Once infected, a red oak will die faster from oak wilt than other oaks, usually within a few weeks as opposed to the few months it takes live oaks to succumb.

How various oaks become infected also differs. In live oaks connected by their roots in an area hit by oak wilt, the disease spreads at an average of 75 to 100 feet per year through the roots. With red oaks, the infection is almost always spread by certain flying insects to bark-damaged trees that may be far distant from the source tree, so rate of spread isn't as predictable.

As to whether to remove your tree or not, that's a hard question. There are neighborhoods here in Austin filled with beautiful, old and young native red oaks that haven't been infected and may never be. They add so much to the neighborhoods that it would be a shame to remove them, but proper preventive care must be addressed, mostly having to do with avoiding open wounds on the trees. More information on this and other oak wilt issues can be found on the following websites:

www.texasoakwilt.org
http://texasforestservice.tamu.edu/main/article.aspx?id=1260
http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/oakwilt

If you decide to remove your red oak, here are some suggestions for regional oak species that are not as vulnerable to oak wilt and would do well in your area:

Burr Oak (Quercus macrocarpa)
Chinquapin Oak (Quercus muehlenbergii)
Post Oak (Quercus stellata)
Lacey Oak (Quercus laceyi)
 

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