Warning! “Oak wilt” is striking Michigan Forests!

Bark infected with oak wilt. Photo: Bill Cook, MUS Extension. Source Legacy Land Conservancy

Bark infected with oak wilt. Photo: Bill Cook, MSU Extension. Source Legacy Land Conservancy

In your travels throughout Michigan this summer, you may see a disturbing sight – areas clear cut of trees. These areas have been hit with oak wilt, a fungus that can kill oak trees in under 4 weeks. To prevent it from spreading, property owners and managers must cut down and remove the tree, in addition to digging out at least 5 feet into the ground to destroy the fungus. It starves the tree to death by preventing it from absorbing water. Sap-feeding beetles spread the fungus by feeding on infected trees. Once one oak is infected, all other oak trees in the area are in danger. If oak wilt isn’t stopped, it could possibly kill almost all the red oaks in the state.

Oak wilt-infected leaves. Photo: Rebecca Finneran, MSU Extension. Source Legacy Land Conservancy

Oak wilt-infected leaves. Photo: Rebecca Finneran, MSU Extension. Source Legacy Land Conservancy

As oaks are a dominant tree species in most of Michigan forests, this would be devastating to our forests as well as our watersheds, as our rivers will lose the forest buffers that keep them healthy.

Already, locally, trees in Legacy Land Conservancy’s Reichert Nature Preserve in Hamburg Township have contracted the fungus.

What you can do:

  • Do not cut any kind of oak trees from April 15th to July 15th.
  • There is a ban on cutting oak trees for firewood during this time
  • Use and buy firewood locally – get it from the vicinity where you will be using it.
  • For more information, see Detroit Public Television’s Great Lakes Now Newsletter and Legacy Land Conservancy’s Winter 2017 Newsletter
  • Report suspect infestations to DNR-FRD-Forest-Health@michigan.gov; 517-284-5895


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