All The Places Oak Wilt Broke My Heart in 2022

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Dec 14, 2022
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West Michigan
In 2022 I saw more trees die from Oak Wilt and Dutch Elm Disease than I ever have before.
I don't think I've ever cried more over trees than I did last year either.
Here are the some of the pictures from those sites.


View attachment Burton Park Oak Wilt Positive Trees.mp4
This was an aggressively managed site - late December to Early January. The large oak in the video was likely the first infected, and was last removed. There were about 3 smaller diameter oaks that were also positive and died last year. This was an odd case where the client made the management decisions on controlling the spread. 2 Tiers of trench lines were dug and about 30 oaks surrounding the epicenter were removed. We treated the stumps with glyphosate or triclopyr weather depending.
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Some people imagine that DED is a thing of the past, but I see it often. I also have many clients with highly valuable American elms that I treat on a preventative basis, simply because it is so, so common. Interestingly, my city has started planting American Elm street trees again. I think this is a remarkably bad idea. Anyways at this site it was a lovely case of: neighbors trees get infected, clients tree in direct line of fire. I gave the neighbor a quote for the removals and installed a trench as quickly as I could. Frustratingly, the neighbor opted to go with a company that wanted to use the job to pad out the slow months. Told her they would wait to remove it. Giving just enough time for female nitidulidae to move from the infected tree to lay her next brood in the tree I am trying to save. Hopefully the client will approve preventative treatments.

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This was the most heartbreaking and frustrating site. Simply because the area is so, so ravaged by Oak Wilt, it felt like a real losing battle. We were working within pretty restrictive budget needs so did not opt to remove as many trees from the epicenter. Instead we implemented tier tree model, where the symptomatic trees are all removed (Mid-Jan) as well as 1 tier of sacraficial asymptomatic trees, then 2 preventative treatment tiers (treated last summer) of trees out from that. We utilized a chemical root disruption method with Glyphosate, (I'm not going to get into it today, but there is so much push back against using Glyphosate to kill oak wilt infected trees and root systems, its so silly) this was due to the dunes making trenching impossible.

The last photo is the most infuriating. It was taken in AUGUST when I was making a follow up visit to the site. Upon arrival at the site I heard chainsaws nearby and decided to investigate. I found a crew in the process of removing an oak that was in active decline due to oak wilt. The property is surrounded by other trees along the utility Right of way that are dead or dying. For reference, this second epicenter of diseased trees was located approximately 625 ft from the oaks I was desperately working to save. Want to know something funny? The climber thought I was taking a picture cause he looked cool! Oh my god, I almost lost it. There was a brief conversation with the homeowner in an attempt to confirm that they were aware of the risk associated with the work being performed though the owner did not seem overly concerned. That was a really defeating day.

I do not expect 2023 to be any less disastrous for Red Oaks. Interesting update on Oak Wilt, it was recently detected in Northern Michigan Chestnut trees. So that's just grand.



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