Oak Wilt FAQ

We know you care about your yard, and especially your trees, so we thought we would pass along… It’s tree-trimming season!

Across Central Texas, HOAs, municipalities, and well-meaning neighbors will yell at you if you trim oaks in the spring. Why? Because February-June has the highest likelihood of spreading oak wilt. Now that it is July, it is officially OPEN SEASON.

Treaty Oak is just one of Austin’s oldest live oak trees, the last of a grove of 14 trees that served as a sacred meeting place for Comanche and Tonkawa tribes. Image courtesy of medium.com

Why trim your live oak trees in Austin?

  • Health: broken / crossed limbs are often entry points for disease.
  • Safety: you don’t want any big branches falling on your dog or your neighbor’s new Cybertruck.
  • Aesthetics: Trimmed trees look better.
  • Cool factor: It’s scientifically proven that your neighbors will think you are at least 14% cooler if they see you trimming your trees.

Oak wilt FAQ

For obvious and well-founded reasons, many people are wary of oak wilt. We get a lot of questions so here is what you need to know. 

What is oak wilt?

Oak wilt is a fungal disease that affects oak trees. It spreads through interconnected roots and sap-feeding beetles.

Why should we care?

It can kill oaks (even mature oaks).

Do we get oak wilt around Austin?

Yes. It is all over central Texas. It’s one of the most destructive tree diseases in the area. I have it in my neighborhood right now.

What does it look like?

– Leaf discoloration. Initially, the disease causes leaves to turn a light green or yellow color around the outer edges while the veins remain dark green. As the disease progresses, the leaves will wilt and eventually fall off the tree.
– Leaves with brown veins
– Defoliation – oaks lose their leaves naturally, but oak wilt will cause excessive defoliation and decreased regrowth.

Leaves showing signs of Oak Wilt
Leaves infected with oak wilt show yellow tips and veins before turning yellow alltogether. Image courtesy of treenewal.com
How quickly does oak wilt kill a tree?

Depends – it isn’t overnight. In most cases, it will take years. And it can be slowed with proper care. Think about a non-curable disease in humans. Sometimes it will come hard and fast, but many times you can treat and prolong the process. It is highly dependent on the severity of the disease and the original age and health of the tree.

How do I avoid it?

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of care. We don’t do the care — we leave that to tree care companies. We do prevention. 

What does prevention look like?

– Know what it looks like. Avoid trimming those trees. Our team is trained to identify oak wilt and avoid it.
– Clean blades between properties – we clean all our equipment regularly to prevent accidental spread between properties
– Paint cuts – Even during low risk seasons, it is important to paint (we use a specially designed tar-like substance) the larger cuts. The rule of thumb: paint any cut larger than the width of your thumb. 

Image courtesy of austintexas.gov

We know a lot about oak wilt. But I wouldn’t call us experts. If you have a question about your trees — feel free to send us a picture or question and we will do our best. In some cases, we will refer you on to the oak wilt big dogs. 

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