What is Oak Wilt and why is it killing trees in Northeast Ohio?

What is Oak Wilt and why is it killing trees in Northeast Ohio?

AKRON, OH (WOIO) - The city of Akron has put out a warning to be on the look-out for a fungus, called Oak Wilt, that can kill a healthy oak tree extremely quickly.

Although not specific to Akron, the city said the rare fungus seems to be targeting trees in the north and the west sides of the city.

Oak Wilt spores travel through roots in the ground from tree to tree but can also be spread by animals and insects as they travel through trees.

The other major factor is people who are pruning trees in the summer, or storm damage that leaves an open wound on the tree. Even though the city has only lost two trees, they are moving quickly because if it spreads it can kill a lot of oak, especially those in the Red Oak group.

"We have only lost two and they are in the Merriman Hills neighborhood. The concern is where they are located. The Merriman Hills neighborhood consists of 75 percent (235 Street Trees) Red and Pin Oaks," said Jon Malish, who is the arborist for the city of Akron.

The fungus actually gets into the tree and plugs the vessels that carry water throughout the tree starving it and eventually killing it. In the process the leaves at the top of the tree start to turn yellow and die slowly, hence the name Oak Wilt.

This is not just an Akron problem according to Malish.

"This is all over Northeast Ohio. What we have discovered is that areas with large cicada infestations last year are infected with Oak Wilt this year," he said.

"We want to raise awareness, and inform residents about how to prevent the spread of this rare but deadly disease that can kill a healthy oak tree in a matter of days or weeks," said Akron Mayor Daniel Horrigan.

The city of Akron is giving tips on how to prevent it:

  1. Never voluntarily prune an oak between April 1 and Oct. 1.
  2. If storm damage occurs or a limb breaks on a City-owned tree, contact 3-1-1 immediately.The City’s trained personnel will remove the branch and treat the wound to prevent infection.
  3. If storm damage occurs, a limb breaks, or pruning cannot be delayed on a privately-owned tree, contact an ISA Certified Arborist. The professional will treat the wound and may recommend fungicidal treatments as well.

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