2018 has turned out to be a very inconsistent year for weather in the Texas Hill Country. From a cold, dry Winter to near drought conditions in the Spring and Summer to a record breaking rainfall in Autumn, the trees in the Hill Country have been through many stressful factors. We have seen several species of trees begin to turn early due to a dry summer only to be hit with more rain than they can handle. We have seen more Live oaks become infected as well. Some have been from Oak wilt, others from Phytophthora root rot. If you watch local news, then you know the mold count has been very high this year and with mold comes spores. After the heavy rains, I’m sure many of you started seeing mushrooms pop up all over. The trees in their already weakened states became more susceptible to fungal invasion. Phytophthora is one of those fungi that moves through the soil and attack the roots of the trees and can eventually cause it to die. It can be one of those diseases that look like Oak wilt by some of the leaf signs but it is a completely different disease. We now use DNA testing to determine what disease we are dealing with and what treatment is needed. With the DNA testing, we only need a small sample and results are usually back within a few days versus a few weeks or months. This is important because the longer we wait the lower the chances the tree has for recovery.
This year we have also seen many Live oaks pruned or trimmed at the wrong time of year and have become infected with Oak wilt. Many of these trees have died in just a few months. Remember that the beetle that spreads the fungus is out in the Spring months and even into Summer in the Hill Country. If you are having your oaks trimmed, make sure the company disinfects the equipment before and between trees and sprays the wounds immediately after cutting. The little beetle can smell a fresh cut up to 1/2 a mile away. Imagine that you had a Live oak trimmed in April and didn’t have all the wounds sprayed. Any beetle within the area will be able to get into the sapwood of the tree and then you are in for trouble. You could potentially have hundreds or more of these beetles enter the tree and infect it. We have had several cases this year of that very scenario happening. Another problem that is occurring is “sculpting” of the Live oaks. This usually involves removing lower branches and low hanging canopy. This is BAD for the Live oaks! First of all, no more than 30% of a canopy should ever be removed. Older trees need even less pruning because they have to make more food in order to survive. Trees need leaves to produce food and removing them to get a better view only puts more stress on a tree. Live oaks also produce water sprouts around and near fresh wounds. Don’t remove them! This is the trees way of helping to seal the wound. Continuing to remove the water sprouts only causes the tree to produce more and uses up its stored sugars(food) to accomplish this.
Let’s all do our part to protect our trees and we look forward to a great 2019!