Invasive disease targets oak trees, Burlington offers detection tips to residents

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Published July 5, 2023 at 3:00 pm

Although there are no confirmed cases in Burlington yet, the Town is advising local residents to be on the lookout for an invasive disease.

Oak wilt has been confirmed in Niagara Falls and near Barrie by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).

Oak wilt, which kills thousands of oak trees each year in urban and natural forests, is a vascular disease of oak trees.

The fungus grows on the outer sapwood of oak trees, restricting the flow of water and nutrients through the tree. Some oak species are more vulnerable than others and can die within a year of infection. In some severe cases, mortality of red oaks can occur within two to six weeks following infection.

No cases have been confirmed in Burlington. However, the City is proactively sharing tips with residents on how to prevent the spread of oak wilt locally, and what to do if they suspect oak wilt is present in the community.

“As part of the City’s strategy to protect and expand Burlington’s urban canopy, we understand the importance of being proactive when responding to threats to our trees,” said Steve Robinson, manager of Urban Forestry.

“This includes the possible spread of invasive pests within Ontario. City crews and our contractors do not prune oaks between April and August. We encourage residents to understand the signs and symptoms of oak wilt and promptly report it to the CFIA and to Service Burlington if they suspect its presence.”

Oak wilt prevention tips:

  • Avoid pruning oak trees between April and November. Minimizing wounds on healthy trees during the flight period of insect carriers helps maintain the health of oak trees.
  • Do not move firewood. In addition to insect carriers, oak wilt is spread through the movement of infected wood.
  • Understand the signs and symptoms of oak wilt. Symptoms of oak wilt include dull green, brown or yellow leaves, cracks in the trunk, white, grey or black fungus as well as early and sudden leaf drop.

The City is asking residents who have oak trees on their private property to inspect their trees for oak wilt. If residents suspect oak wilt to be present on their oak tree or on a City-owned oak tree, they are asked to report it the CFIA and the City at 905-335-7777 or email [email protected].

For further information on the impacts of oak wilt and how to identify signs and symptoms of oak wilt, visit here.

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