Planting New Trees In Oak Wilt Sensitive Areas

Oak wilt is a serious problem in central Texas. It kills neighborhoods worth of trees at a time. Implementing control programs is crucial, but implementing programs to plant replacement trees is arguably more important. But, what kind of trees should be planted?

Lately, the popular choices have been wilt resistant oak species: bur oaks, chinquapin (cheenk-a-pen) oaks, monterrey oaks and lacey oaks. While these are all reputable trees, they are not without their own limitations. Bur and chinquapin oaks in their natural setting are found in river bottom areas where there is substantial water available in the underground tables. Planting these trees in the hill country or on a rocky slope is not a good idea without irrigation; even then, you are testing mother nature’s boundaries. Monterrey and lacey oaks are better adapted to rocky slopes and dry conditions, but you should know that these are not tall growing trees. Monterreys get a little taller than the laceys, but both max out around 15-20 feet. And, their life span is relatively short as well. Depending on planting conditions, you should expect 20-40 years. Maybe that’s long enough for you, but come on, you are going through all the trouble to plant a tree; why not plant something that will grace the neighborhood long after you move on.

My favorite trees to plant are the natives, even the ones people shun because of oak wilt susceptibility. Live oaks and red oaks are two of the best adapted varieties of trees for the central Texas area, but many people write them off because of oak wilt. The reality is that transplanted oaks generally don’t graft roots with the natives and will survive an oak wilt onslaught. Cedar elms are another good choice for central Texas, and these trees are hardy to a large variety of growing conditions.

Live oaks and red oaks are the best trees for the area. It’s bad enough that oak wilt is killing them. We don’t the to make the problem worse by failing to replant these spectacular species. Basing your planting selection on one single tree disease is succumbing to evil’s trickery. Just because a tree is tolerant of oak wilt, doesn’t mean it won’t have other problems. And, oak wilt control is getting better all the time. With the digital age upon us, documentation and our knowledge base is improving. Mark my words, one day soon, we will be able to effectively treat and control oak wilt. Help restore our oak forests by planting new live oaks and red oaks today.

2 thoughts on “Planting New Trees In Oak Wilt Sensitive Areas”

  1. Don’t understand the 15-20 foot statement whenthe Monterrey Oak is not only advertised, but even documented to be 40 foot trees even in the Austin area.

  2. I agree it would be a shame to aid in the disappearance of any native tree. However, planting a tree often requires a notable commitment from the homeowner- you don’t want to find your beautiful tree turning brown and dying, say 7 or 10 years down the road. So, oak wilt is something you have to consider, especially if the tree is in a prominent location. The good news is, as the story says, newly planted trees (knock on wood) aren’t necessarily destined to die from oak wilt. In Live Oak, the manifestations do not occur under the bark- the disease is spread through the roots. I have a 14 year old red oak in my back yard surrounded by and virtually growing in the shadows of huge Live Oaks that succumbed to wilt and it is doing fine. In my front yard I planted a Bur oak. Bur will grow almost anywhere, it doesn’t require the deep moist soil of river bottom, unless you’re wanting a record-book specimen. So to sum up, I am no expert but from my experience it seems safe to plant red oak varities in areas where Live Oaks have died, but maybe not in areas where other reds have died, again because of the way it is spread. Lacey oak is a good smaller native oak that can grow well in rocky, dry soils. Post oak is another selection that would also be worth considering

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