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Ferguson Township Confirms First Case of Oak Wilt This Year

by on August 19, 2019 2:45 PM

Ferguson Township is advising residents that the first case of oak wilt this year in the township was confirmed on Deepwood Drive. The disease can quickly kill oak trees and spread to nearby trees.

Oak wilt is a fungal disease transmitted by sap and by bark-feeding beetles. Though it can affect all species of oak, red and pin oaks are most susceptible. Once a tree is infected it will rapidly drop its leaves during the summer months and die. There is no cure for the disease.

The disease can spread through root grafts and by the beetles that feed on infected trees and move on to healthy ones.

"These beetles are especially attracted to trees with open cuts, or wounds, from which sap bleeds," according to a fact sheet. "Fungal spores on or in the beetles are deposited in the sap while the beetles feed. The fungus grows out of the sap and into the tree, where it quickly spreads throughout the tree and into the roots."

Ferguson Township has taken several preventative steps. In October 2016, the Board of Supervisors approved an ordinance that makes it illegal to cut or prune trees between April 1 and Oct. 31, the time of year the fungus-spreading beetles are most active. It also makes it illegal to climb trees with boot spurs or spikes except for tree removal. Violations of both provisions are punishable by fines.

A resolution passed at that time allows the township to treat at-risk trees that are near infected trees using a fungistat to abate the spread. Recognizing that sometimes there is no way for a property owner to prevent a tree from being wounded and susceptible to the disease, the resolution also allows the township to break tree root grafts and remove infected trees without cost to the property owner.

The ordinance and resolution came after two wilt-infected trees in Park Forest Village had to be removed in 2016. The township had  confirmed cases in 2017 and 2018.

Residents should be aware of signs of oak wilt, including leaf discoloration, browning, wilting and falling off altogether while other trees are still green. Particular attention should be paid to leaves at the top of a tree turning brown and falling off.

Symptoms of an infected tree should be reported to township arborist Lance King at (814) 238-4651 or [email protected].

More information from the township on oak wilt can be found here.

Geoff Rushton is managing editor for Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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