En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

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

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Monday - March 26, 2012

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Trees
Title: Hypoxylon Canker removal in Austin TX
Answered by: Brigid & Larry Larson

QUESTION:

I have several oaks that appear to have been killed by Hypoxylon atropunctatum from last summer's drought. Is it safe to cut them down in March or does that risk spreading Oak Wilt too. Should I let them sit there dead until summer?

ANSWER:

Mr Smarty Plants offers his condolences on the loss of your Oaks.  That always hurts. 

Your question evoked considerable discussion amongst the experts at the Ladybird Johnson Willdflower Center.  It's clear the trees need to be removed, but there were good arguments for either "right now" or "wait until next winter". A general concensus clearly recommended that you employ the services of a Texas Oak Wilt Certified Arborist and get a expert diagnosis of the trees condition and recommendation for how to go on.

The argument for waiting is the one you implied. When considering Oak Wilt, it’s just a bit late to be cutting trees down.  The standing advice is to prune from December into early February. The risk you induce by waiting is that the Hypoxylon Canker that is there may infect other trees.  You can have hope that this year this risk is minimal as the references linked below imply that healthy, well watered trees are not all that susceptable to the canker. There is also a risk, in truly advanced cases, that the tree wood will be weaked by the fungus and drop limbs or fall.  

The argument for "cutting now" is that you do have Hypoxylon Canker there.  Leaving the trees stand until summer or later is leaving a viable source of the fungal infection in place. The Florida Forest Service describes the fungal growth process.  In the spring or early summer, masses of spores called conidia are produced on the surface.  Later in the summer or fall, after the powdery conidia are gone, the fungal stromata thicken and produce another type of spores. These are the infective ascospores which are present later in the summer or fall.    The Florida Forest Service recommends removal of the tree. 

 The Oklahoma State Extension recommended “In a home setting, individual trees that have more than 15% of the crown area infected should be cut to ground level and burned. No stump should be left because stroma development has been observed even on very small stumps.” The Texas Forest Service also has a publication describing the course of the infection, and there are  several publications from TAMU including a 3-part fact-sheet. This one addresses managing Hypoxylon canker.

It makes sense to remove trees that can serve as viable sources of continuing infection, but at the same time one should be concerned about Oak Wilt as that is a continuing concern for the other trees.  One should take extreme care that the neighboring Oak trees are not damaged by the removal and follow the expected precautions following the work. This includes tool cleaning, not storing infected wood on the property, and all pruning cuts or other wounds, including freshly-cut stumps and damaged surface roots, should be treated immediately with a wound or latex paint to prevent exposure to contaminated insect vectors. I will repeat the recommendation of consulting a certified Oak Wilt Arborist!

Mr Smarty Plants has produced several answers concerning Hypoxylon Canker, most of them involve determining that this is the source of illness.  There are several other good links in these answers though. 

 

More Diseases and Disorders Questions

Why are the eastern red cedars in Bastrop/Travis County turning brown?
May 11, 2009 - I live on the Bastrop/Travis county, TX line and have many eastern red cedars on my property. About 10 of them are dying and it has happened quickly with the onset of the warmer weather. I noticed d...
view the full question and answer

Clear pungent, liquid oozing from oak tree
June 28, 2010 - I have a large oak that over the last few days has been oozing a pungent, non sticky, clear substance from one specific site (no damage) about the size of a dime. It's attracting quite a few gnats, m...
view the full question and answer

Problems with Ashe juniper from Lakeway TX
May 25, 2013 - Dear Sir/Madam, I have been living for the last three years in Lakeway, Texas approximately 20 miles west of Austin. In my back garden there are several ashe junipers about 15-20ft tall. However...
view the full question and answer

Damage to Pine Tree on Cape Cod, MA
June 11, 2013 - My pine tree on Cape Cod has bark that is perforated with holes covering the entire tree. Bark can be removed by hand. Looks dead. What did this?
view the full question and answer

Allelopathy of American elms from Dallas
March 24, 2013 - Are American elms at all allelopathic?
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center