Oak wilt

Oak Wilt Confirmed In Ashland County

Map showing Wisconsin counties in which oak wilt has been detected.

With the addition of Ashland County, oak wilt has now been detected in 66 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties. / Map Credit: Wisconsin DNR.

By Paul Cigan, DNR Forest Health Specialist, Hayward
Paul.Cigan@wisconsin.gov or 715-416-4920

Oak wilt, a deadly disease of oaks, has been found for the first time in Ashland County.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) confirmed the find in wood samples from a red oak tree in the town of Gordon.

“There is always risk of oak wilt spread into new and relatively uninfested areas in northern Wisconsin, such as Ashland County, so it’s always best to practice oak wilt prevention wherever possible to significantly reduce that risk,” said Paul Cigan, a DNR forest health specialist based in Hayward.

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Oak Harvesting During A Cold Spring

By Kyoko Scanlon, DNR Forest Pathologist, Kyoko.Scanlon@wisconsin.gov or 608-235-7532

Oak trees in a snow-covered field

The colder weather in spring 2023 might delay the DNR’s recommendations to avoid trimming or cutting from April through July. Photo: Wisconsin DNR

It’s April, but in much of Wisconsin the weather doesn’t seem to have gotten the message.

You may be wondering if the oak harvesting restriction that started on April 1 (south of the tension zone) and will start on April 15 (north of the tension zone) might be pushed back due to unusually cold temperatures.

Even with unusually cold springs, we remain consistent with the same general messages: “Stop pruning in April” and “Avoid harvesting in April (south of the tension zone).” We do this for the following reasons:

  • It is difficult to spread the word in a timely manner about when to begin the restrictions. Often when spring comes late, it arrives suddenly; in those cases, before we know it, we’ve entered the high-risk period.
  • We want to be consistent in stressing the messages of the existing oak harvesting guidelines, so that the public is aware of them.

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Protect Oaks During Spring Clean-up

By Paul Cigan, DNR plant pest and disease specialist, Paul.Cigan@wisconsin.gov or 715-416-4920

An oak tree with branches trimmed

To prevent the spread of often-fatal oak wilt disease, do not prune, cut or wound oaks from April through July. Photo: Wisconsin DNR

With the arrival of spring, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) recommends protecting oaks from the often-fatal oak wilt disease by refraining from pruning, cutting or injuring oak trees from April through July.

The highest risk period for oak wilt introduction to a new site is in spring and early summer. Pruning and cutting oaks exposes living tree tissue beneath the bark to potential infection. The disease rapidly kills trees in the red oak group and weakens those in the white oak group.

Sap-feeding beetles spread the disease between oaks by carrying oak wilt spores from infected trees or firewood to fresh, exposed tree wounds. Healthy oaks and freshly cut oak stumps can become infected as quickly as 15 minutes after a wound is made from a pruning cut or broken branch.

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