We attended the oak wilt seminar at City Hall on Tuesday and what we learned was both enligtening and concerning. Some of what we learned from Texas Forest Service Staff Forester Eric Beckers also seemed to contradict what we thought we knew about when to prune our live oaks, and how to dispose of infected trees. We're studying the matter more and hope to have a more in-depth report on the seminar, plus information received from local realtor and real estate expert Sandra Steele on the financial impact of oak wilt on Dripping Springs property, by next week. In the meantime, given the upcoming cold temperatures (this is key), we wanted to do a brief recap.
As many of us know, oak wilt is a devastating tree disease that is killing our Hill Country oak trees. It is caused by a fungus carried by beetles. When an infected beetle lands on a fresh pruning cut, it can infect the tree. Most thusly infected oak trees will die within a few months and, thanks to the massive root system of live oaks, spread the disease to other trees.
You can prevent oak wilt by painting fresh pruning wounds immediately after you cut the branch. Do not pass go, don't stop for a lemonade, spray immediately so the beetles don't go there first (these things are tiny and don't wear reflective orange vests, so you really won't see them coming). Cover the entire wound with a thin coating of paint.
Next, according to Forester Beckers, the beetles only hate to be out and about in extreme cold and extreme heat (like you do) and, therefore, those are the best times to do any pruning (but you must still paint). If the weatherfolk are right, we have some cold temperatures coming our way, so if you need to cut do so when it's cold. Beckers also advises against doing any cutting between February and June, so time is drawing nigh.
You can learn more now at texasoakwilt.org