We are currently being blessed (or cursed if you are a snow-lover) with a wimpy winter by Minnesota standards. The early season abundance of snow...way back in November has now dwindled to a pretty low amount of snow cover. This means most roofs are not sporting 3 foot icicles and home damaging ice dams. People aren’t breaking their backs shoveling or blowing their budget on snow plowing and salt for their driveways. Yes, this wimpy winter has been a blessing in many regards.
Another perk of the lack of snow cover means that it will be easier to trim your oak trees this winter. Oak wilt is devastating to trees in Anoka, Washington and Chisago counties as massive oaks are destroyed when this disease spreads. Smart landscaping and maintenance requires you trim oaks in the winter months—before April in Minnesota. Now is the perfect time to avoid exposure to this tree-killing disease and without the normal ice and snow of a Minnesota winter it will be much easier to maneuver ladders and equipment to reach trees on acreage properties.
Oak Wilt Devastates Acreage Several years ago I shared photos of a property in a Ham Lake community where the owners had endured oak wilt on their acreage property for several years. Sadly they did not tackle the issue head-on and in one summer alone, lost approximately a dozen trees. (Read Oak Wilt—A Minnesota Tragedy) While the beautiful grove of mature oak trees is now a memory, the current property owners took the initiative to save the remaining oaks. With treatment and proper care,the remaining oaks have been disease free.
Oak wilt is not just a problem in Ham Lake and Anoka County. It is prevalent in communities from Columbus to Lino Lakes and Forest Lake to Scandia. Whether you live in Anoka, Chisago or Washington County, if you have oaks on your property, you need to take precautions to protect them from this deadly tree-killing disease.
What is Oak Wilt?
Oak wilt is a disease caused by a fungus which attacks the central system of the tree from the roots to leaves. When the tree attempts to block the fungus, it also blocks all water and nutrients to the branches and leaves. The leaves then wilt, brown and eventually, the tree dies.
Oak wilt spreads through the root systems of near by infected trees and by fungus beetles that carry the oak wilt spores from tree to tree. For additional information on oak wilt from the University of MN Extention Service CLICK HERE.
How to Protect Your Trees
Keep oaks trimmed and healthy. Trim large mature oaks now as January/February are excellent months to prune oak trees. If you have your large oaks trimmed now it is a preventative to spring storm damage when heavy, dead branches can fall during tornadoes or straight line winds.
The fungus beetles infect trees that have been recently injured or trimmed. These beetles are very active in the spring and summer months but not active at all during the winter. Oaks should be protected from damage and not trimmed from April through July.
Tree trimming of mature oaks is best left to professionals especially near the power lines. The trimmer should use a bucket truck or a line/pulley system, NOT spiked climbing boots which can damage the tree.
Selling a Home with Oak Wilt?
Be honest and disclose! A seller think it is acceptable to cut down a diseased tree and not mention this when selling their home. This is not only unethical it could cause expensive legal problems after the sale. Even if a seller doesn’t say anything about oak wilt infected trees that were removed prior to listing the home, most neighbors will inform a new homeowner at some point.
Cutting down a diseased tree does not prevent the spread of oak wilt. It is likely other trees are infected. If more trees die and the buyer was not properly informed, the seller could be in a legal battle. Bottom line: There is a question regarding diseased trees on the Minnesota Sellers’ Disclosure Form. Fill it out honestly. It is never a good idea to not tell the whole truth on a property disclosure form.