Tree professionals of Pennsylvania discuss the dangers of oak tree decline.
Silent but Deadly: Oak Trees and Oak Decline
Throughout the ages and even across cultures, oak trees have been venerated. These long-lived, hardy trees have symbolized strength, wisdom, and even the divine. The word druid even comes from the Celtic term for “oak knowledge.” Modern builders use the desirable hardwood timber from these trees to create furniture, flooring, and more. As landscaping trees, they are tall and strong with wide canopies providing luxuriously large patches of shade. Unfortunately, oaks decline can cut short the life of these beautiful and useful trees.
Defining Oak Tree Decline
The term oak decline refers to the slowly progressing combination of tree diseases that lead to the death of oak trees. Because oaks are a sturdy and robust tree species, they tend to be able to fight off a single attack, but oak decline happens when several different things attack a tree at once. When one stressor occurs, the tree may become more vulnerable to other stressors it could normally survive.
Factors that contribute to oak tree decline include:
- Water Stress (reduced access to water such as drought)
- Nutrient deficiency
- Pests such as two lined borer beetles and other harmful insects
- Fungus such as Armillaria root rot
Though trees tend to be more maintenance-free than other plants, they do need care. Tree care is really the best prevention for oak decline. Verifying that the tree has an environment that promotes growth and health is vital. Here are a few steps that may need to be taken:
- Arborist Consultation: Consulting with a tree care professional is always an appropriate first step.
- Soil Testing: Testing soil pH and nutrient levels can help a client have extra information on how to proceed.
- Water: Make sure the tree gets enough water especially during dry spells.
- Mulching: This has a dual purpose of helping to retain moisture and adding nutrients via composting.
- Pest Control: Treatments that eliminate or deter bugs and/or fungus growth may be needed.
Watch for Signs of Decline
Even though oak decline is a complex of tree diseases, it has clear symptoms that point toward it and not some other disease. De-leafing tends to happen on the tips of top branches and works its way down until the top one-third to one-half of the tree crown is leafless and dying.
If a fungus such as Armillaria has managed to encompass the roots of the tree, there may be evidence of the fungus either under the bark in the basal area of the tree or mushroom blooms in the ground around the tree roots. Defoliation that happens earlier in the fall than it should or leaves that seem dwarfed when they grow in the spring are also indicative of a tree under stress.
If You Find Oak Decline: Next Steps
If a client suspects their tree is in oak decline, they should make an appointment with a tree service company to perform a tree risk assessment. There are three main options when it comes to a tree that has already begun declining
- Treatment: A certified arborist can come up with a treatment plan for the tree and the pests that are affecting it.
- Trimming: Cut the dying parts out of the tree may be what the tree needs to recover.
- Removal: The tree may be so far gone that there is no way to help it fully recover. Removal may be necessary and the company’s arborist may be able to advise the client on a better tree choice for the location.
About Greater Pitt Tree Service
Greater Pitt Tree Service has more than a quarter-century of experience caring for Pittsburgh’s trees. We have 24/7 emergency service and free estimates. Call us today for tree service in the Pittsburgh, PA area.