DNR works to slow the spread of oak wilt

f0156b4d6a4822839a6c86803953d402Oak wilt – a lethal fungus that can infect and kill red oak trees within weeks – is being targeted again this year by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

In a written release, the DNR asked residents to avoid cutting red oak trees between April 15th and July 15th – the primary time for infection.

Roger Mech is with the DNR. He said oak wilt starves trees to death.

“Oak wilt is a vascular disease which means it’s a vascular disease which means the fungus plugs up the vessels that are responsible for moving nutrients and water between the roots and leaves of a tree. It helps explain why trees die so quickly from this disease.”

Mech said the infection is specific to red oaks. Beetles can spread the fungus, and so can the trees themselves.  

“Once a tree is infected the disease spreads below ground through root grafts It only takes one tree infected for the problem to grow rapidly over the course of a couple of growing seasons.”

According to Mech,  there is not a cost effective way to save trees once they’ve been infected.

“Because the disease moves so quickly it’s a difficult one to treat.”

Mech said over the past ten years the DNR has stepped up efforts to keep the fungus in check: including making a note of the location of infected trees.

He says the best thing residents can do to stop the spread is to keep from pruning trees during the April to July window because the fungus can infect trees from these open areas.

The DNR is a supporter of WCMU.