Oak wilt confirmed in Steiner, Education meetings July 14, Aug. 3

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By LYNETTE HAALAND, Four Points News

Oak wilt, an infectious disease, has been confirmed in the Plateau neighborhood in Steiner Ranch and is also confirmed along Selma Hughes Park Road off of Quinlan Park Road.

“I looked at about 10 home lots and oak wilt is affecting 30 trees,” said Clay Bales, forester from the Texas A&M Forest Service.

Bales said there is very little oak wilt in Steiner now but that “it won’t stay that way. Constant education is needed to protect the beauty in Steiner Ranch.”

Bales said he got a call from a homeowner in Steiner about three months ago who thought they might have oak wilt. Bales investigated and it turned out to be the case.

If not treated and addressed, oak wilt will continue to grow and spread. One reason this is such a big issue is that mature, live oaks are all connected, Bales said.

Oak wilt moves in two ways, above ground in red oaks through mat beetles and below ground, in the roots. The roots, in time, grow together from lot to lot and connect throughout a community, he said.

“The only way to stop that is sever roots four feet deep with trenching,” Bales said.

“Also streets are not a barrier,” he said. Oak wilt will spread under the streets as well, and pavement won’t stop them because the roots run deeper than the roads.

Combating oak wilt is expensive, Bales said.

Individual homeowners can inject trees, which protects the crown but doesn’t affect the roots. “It will move through the roots like nothing happened,” he said. Also all of the new rings of tree growth are not protected.

“Trenching is expense, injecting trees is expensive, removal is expensive and property values go down when trees are removed on a property,” Bales said.

The Steiner Ranch HOA is hosting two oak wilt education presentations on July 14 and Aug. 3 starting at 6 p.m. at Towne Square Community Center. Bales will be part of that meeting and will cover how to identify, prevent, and manage oak wilt.

To prevent oak wilt infection, please follow the below guidelines:

– Do not prune oak trees from February through June,
– Use paint on all cuts or wounds to oak trees,
– Destroy all dead or dying red oaks near a tree with oak wilt,
– Do not move any firewood until it is well-seasoned,
– Plant native, non-oak tree species.