Prevention best way to stop oak wilt

No known cure for tree fungal disease exists

SAN ANTONIO – Planners met at City Hall on Wednesday afternoon to discuss strategies for preventing and dealing with oak wilt. 

Rudy Sanchez, director of Development Services for the city of San Antonio, said oak wilt is a problem that has beleaguered the region for many years.

"Oak wilt is a fungus that gets on oak trees. Fortunately, it only affects oak trees. No other species," Sanchez said.

Sanchez said that beyond being spread through the roots of the trees, insects carry the fungus that kills oak trees. 

"They go. They get in the fungus. It gets all over their bodies and then they fly around and they look for another oak tree where maybe a limb has been cut off," Sanchez said.

Experts say that a wound as small as a half-inch in diameter is large enough for beetles to spread Ceratocystis fagacearum, the fungus that causes oak wilt. 

"So (city) council just wants to get ahead of it and make sure that we're doing everything that we can," Sanchez said.

Texas A&M forestry specialist Mark Duff said one way to prevent oak wilt is to pay close attention and take action when noticing changes in trees. 

"I've kind of watched and mapped the oak wilt spread over the last 25 years, and I would say it's probably doubled in size, acreage and number of oak wilt spots," Duff said.

Experts say that painting new tree wounds within 30 minutes, pruning during appropriate times, proper disposal of infected trees, and hiring experts to apply disease-fighting fungicide are all part of the strategy to preventing oak wilt.

To learn more about the presentation Sanchez made to city council about oak wilt management, click here.