By Mary French
The oak trees of Salado are a rich heritage according to History of Salado, Texas compiled by MaryBelle Brown and Bill Kinnison. Oak wilt can damage that heritage. One can imagine Native American tribes camping near or under trees by Salado Creek as they carved flint and hunted. Mexican and American settlers also chose to build homes around and near the trees such as Dr. Benjamin McKie and his wife Eva who built their home in Salado amongst giant oak trees. Their home is now known as Twelve Oaks. Today we see families and friends gathering under the trees to play in the creek and share a picnic lunch.
Because of this rich heritage and the grace and charm the oak trees bring to the Village of Salado, seeing the signs of oak wilt again appearing is disheartening. Learning to identify oak wilt and taking efforts to prevent the spread of the destructive disease caused by a fungus is our only hope of reducing the damage to the oak trees in Salado.
Basic information is useful to help in this effort. First, Saladoans need to be able to identify symptoms of oak wilt. Texas A & M Forest Service Oak Wilt Specialist Emily Driscoll says to look for leaves on live oak trees that develop yellow veins and eventually turn brown. Infected red oak trees’ leaves are more difficult to identify. In early spring, the infected red oak trees’ leaves may simply wilt or turn pale green and brown. Mature infected red oak leaves may turn pale green or brown on the edges and progress inward. Red oaks may form red fungal mats that begin underneath the bark. If you find these symptoms, contact a trained arborist to verify oak wilt and provide you options for your next step.
Secondly, if you have discovered oak wilt on your property, please notify your neighbors. Healthy oak trees within 150 – 200 feet of the diseased tree can be treated with a good success rate according to Driscoll.
Last of all, we all need to follow these guidelines from the forest service to prevent new infections of oak wilt.
1. Do not prune oak trees from February through June.
2. When pruning oak trees, paint all the wounds and fresh stumps no matter what time of the year.
3. Most importantly, when hiring someone to trim your oak trees, insist and verify that they have painted all the wounds and stumps. If diseased red oaks are discovered, cut and properly dispose of them immediately.
The Texas A & M Forest Service provides valuable information on oak wilt at www.texasoakwilt.org.
“How to Identify and Manage Oak Wilt in Texas” brochures are also available at the Salado Municipal Building.