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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.

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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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Friday - May 03, 2013

From: Belton, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Trees
Title: When is it time to remove diseased oak trees in Belton, TX?
Answered by: Jimmy Mills

QUESTION:

When to give up on my live oaks. We lost/mostly several live oaks since 2011 and the drought. One, died from the crown, one large mass at a time, and now resembles a 10' totem pole with scraggly growth up the side and top. Another, which was even larger, seemed to be well last year, but simply did not come back this year..except, again, for a few scraggly green branches along the base of the trunk and 2-3 little bundles of green high in the tree tops. I don't see cankers on the trunk. I had some master gardeners visit, and they said it appeared to be a decline, but not live oak decline. Any ideas? It's heartbreaking to lose these big beauties, but if it's time to give up and replant, I'd like to know how to make that decision. My husband thinks if there is any green at all, there's hope, but I'm not so optimistic.

ANSWER:

Decisions are easier when you have good information, so that’s what I’m going to try to provide. The drought has been very hard on our oak trees, and trees that haven’t died are weakened and susceptible to various microbial diseases. The Texas Plant Disease Handbook describes several of these.

A big problem with oak trees in Texas is oakwilt. Check out this link to see if your trees match the symptoms.

Another problem is the fungus Hypoxylon, Biscogniauxia atropunctatum.
These three links have information about this disease.
   Texas Plant Disease  Diagnostic Lab  scroll down to "hypoxylon canker"

   US Forest Service 

   Texas Forest Service 

 The next thing you need to do is have a knowledgeable person examine your trees and determine what the problem is (this is not to demean the master gardeners you have consulted, but think of it as a second opinion). This person could be someone from the Bell County office of Texas Agrilife Extension, someone from the Texas Forest Service , or a Certified Arborist . They should be able to advise what your next step should be.

I like your husband’s optimism, however, a couple of the links under Hypoxylon emphasize that a tree with large, dead limbs is a safety hazard.

 

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