Buying a Ranch in Texas and What You Should Know About Oak Wilt

An example of a tree in Texas with Oak Wilt

Buying a new Ranch in Texas? Watch out for Oak Wilt!

Learning everything you can about your new ranch property can be a great investment of your time. One threat to the trees on your property is Oak Wilt. This can be a costly and deadly nemesis among oak trees, especially if left untreated or misdiagnosed. Red oaks can die within a month, while other oaks can take up to six months. Luxury ranches for sale in Texas and properties with abundant trees throughout the Texas Hill Country might be susceptible to this tree disease, but an experienced Texas ranch broker should be able to identify potential symptoms and offer advice. Additionally, the Texas Forest Service and the International Society of Arboriculture have guidelines to help identify and prevent this disease.

Identifying Oak Wilt

Without an experienced arborist who can see the warning signs, this deadly disease can fester among your oaks for months. Thankfully, knowing the warning signs can help you identify it quickly.

Here are a few symptoms to help identify Oak Wilt:

  • Foliar symptoms like wilting leaves
  • Fungal mats are found in red oaks by looking for the narrow cracks in the bark that lead to hollow areas between the bark and wood. Fungal mats produce spores that also have distinct odors when you chop away the loose bark.
  • Patterns in tree mortality

Oak Wilt is caused by the destructive and contagious fungus Ceratocystis fagacearum. Other trees nearby become at risk through the spore-carrying beetles in the air, as well as the interconnected root systems underground. It is recommended by to use a lab to confirm a diagnosis of Oak Wilt, as there are other tree diseases with similar symptoms.

Preventing Oak Wilt

The peak season for infection is from February - June. In order to protect your oaks, you should avoid pruning them during this time. Pruning oaks has the same effect as a wound and leaves the tree more susceptible to infection. Conversely, trees in high-traffic areas where people or vehicles may brush into them are considered at high risk and should be pruned back to avoid their constant “wounding.” Wounds should be treated immediately by painting over them with latex paints to protect them from prolonged exposure to the elements and attraction of infected beetles. Another way to prevent Oak Wilt is to bleach and sterilize all pruning tools before using those tools on other trees. Prevention is always best if possible.

Getting Rid of Oak Wilt

So, what do you do if you know that your trees have Oak Wilt? There is a tri-fold approach you should take in order to ensure all areas of infection are stopped and healthy trees are protected.

  • 1. You will need to eradicate all infected oaks and paint over all wounded trees, as well as avoid any pruning in the spring. You should burn the infected wood and be sure to handle any firewood properly so as not to expose other trees accidentally.
  • 2. Dig trenches at least 4 feet deep around to sever any connections the roots of those trees may have to other trees. This depth may need to increase if there are deeper levels of root connections. Trenches should be 100 feet beyond the trees with symptoms to create a barrier. If healthy trees are found within that barrier, you may consider uprooting them to strengthen the barrier.
  • 3. Fungicide treatment is the third ingredient to successful Oak Wilt elimination. It should be used in conjunction with the other treatments, namely trenching, and is ideally used as a preventative measure, though some success has been shown during the early stages of infection. Proper injection sites and following the steps correctly are crucial to this method.

Your Texas Hill Country ranch or luxury home can be the investment and dream place you’ve always longed for with the proper advice and eye on your side. Don’t allow these types of issues to go unnoticed.

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