New York battles continuing spread of deadly oak wilt

Oak wilt symptoms vary depending on the species of oak tree. Photo: Preservation TreeOak wilt symptoms vary depending on the species of oak tree.
Photo: Preservation Tree

The Cornell Plant Disease Diagnostic Clinic in Ithaca, New York, has identified the presence of oak wilt in the borough of Brooklyn in Kings County and in the towns of Babylon, Islip, Riverhead and Southold in Suffolk County.

This is the fourth county where oak wilt has been confirmed in New York. It was found in Long Island in August 2016. Reports of symptomatic oak trees from both tree-care professionals and the public has led to the additional detections.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) will remove and destroy all the oaks that have tested positive for the fungus. It has issued emergency orders to establish protective zones encompassing all of Suffolk County and the borough of Brooklyn.

The orders forbid the removal of any living, dead, standing, cut or fallen oak trees or any portions thereof, including branches, logs, stumps or roots and green oak lumber and firewood, out of the zone unless it has been chipped to less than 1 inch in two dimensions.

“It is important that these emergency orders are taken seriously,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. “Moving contaminated wood without taking precautions will spread this serious tree-killing disease to additional areas.”

Because testing for oak wilt must be conducted during the growing season when the fungus is active, intense sampling will be carried out throughout Kings, Nassau and Suffolk counties this spring to determine the extent of the spread.

Aerial surveys will also be conducted in July, when the signs of oak wilt are expected to be most evident.

Property owners in neighborhoods with infected trees will be provided information about how to protect their remaining oak trees. The DEC will also hold public meetings to address questions and concerns about the disease.

“Oak wilt is a fast-moving disease that can kill a large amount of trees quickly,” said Richard A. Ball, state agriculture commissioner. “It is important to follow these emergency orders closely to prevent the disease from spreading and protect our trees.”

For more information about oak wilt and its symptoms, click here.

Individuals are asked to watch for oak wilt symptoms in the summer and to contact the Forest Health Line at 1-866-640-0652.

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