TreeFAQs – Tree Health Answers & Questions

Ask the experts about tree health, get answers, and contribute to the public database of California tree problems.

 

Forest Health

The lab can, upon request, analyze wood chips at cost ($90 US dollars per sample).  Testing would confirm the presence or absence of any known dangerous pathogens.

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The first question to ask is what type of irrigation is being used currently on the hedge. Most landscape oak root fungus problems are due to overwatering in summer months. However, Thuja orientalis (=Platycladus orientalis) is quite susceptible to Armillaria even without heavy irrigation as highly susceptible species do not require excessively high soil moisture to be killed.

Prior to any new planting, as much of the old hedge (including roots) should be removed. In addition, any other decaying wood should be removed. Replanting with plants that do not require supplemental watering is best. Some CA natives that make good hedges include: ceanothus, island mountain mahogany, manzanita, and toyon. Non-native possibilities include Leyland cypress and Japanese privet. Keep in mind though that even plant species listed as resistant to oak root fungus will die if overwatered.

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A lot depends on when the tree is felled. If a tree is cut in winter, it is possible that the root system will experience an additional year of growth. What happens to the root system depends on many variables, including soil type and presence of other trees of the same species adjacent to the one being felled. If the same species is present and the root systems of neighboring trees are grafted, the roots may be kept alive by trees still standing.  Some species, like aspen, will actually sprout new shoots along the root system. Often a stump with roots that are alive will seal the cambium on the stump surface, resulting in a round bump along the entire circumference of the tree right over the cambial area (i.e. just inside the bark).

 

 

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Question:
My organization is considering launching a large-scale urban tree planting project in the Bay Area, with the goal of adding one million trees to the urban forest inventory within 15 years. We are interested in coast live oak (CLO) as a major component of the effort for a number of reasons, including the ease with which seed can be collected and planted, drought tolerance, habitat value, high potential for carbon sequestration and rainfall interception, and status as a “signature tree” of the local landscape.

The plan is to gather seed locally from many locations, and plant with minimal site preparation and no supplemental irrigation or other artificial life support systems. Trees will be monitored and cared for over time, and replanting will take place as needed to ensure that we continue to make progress toward our goal. Obviously we don’t want to exacerbate the sudden oak death problem. Our hope is that, on the contrary, widespread and large-scale planting with subsequent monitoring might help identify resistant trees. What recommendations do you have?

Answer:
First of all, this is a really neat project and you are absolutely correct about the benefits of planting CLO. Based on the information provided, the following are recommendations for the project:

In addition to coast live oak, it would also be good to plant Oregon white oak in the northern greater Bay Area, valley oak in the middle portion of the Bay Area, and blue oak in the southern part of the Bay Area. The rationale for this is that diversity/biodiversity is always good and the three alternate oak species are immune to SOD. A good overall planting ratio would be 75% CLO and 25% other species.

The big issue is going to be when California bay laurel is present, as it helps to spread Phytophthora ramorum. CLO should never be planted within 20-25 yards of bay for this reason. Unfortunately, bay has become invasive and SOD is actually increasing its abundance, so where bay is at least 10% of the stand, plant the other oak species recommended above. In riparian areas, bay should be left untouched.

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Research has identified coast live oak individuals that may be somewhat resistant to SOD, possibly because of the presence of some chemicals in the bark and phloem.  However, there is no information yet on how genetics and the environment may affect this trait.

Tanoak has some mother trees that produce SOD-tolerant seedlings and some that produce seedlings that respond very well to phosphonate treatments. These tanoak families are at UC Berkeley, but are not currently commercially available.

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  • Make sure the prop blades are protected.
  • Modify the tail to include a collection device.  A very sharp blade at a sharp angle allows twigs to be cut off and often to remain caught in the space between the blade and tail.
  • Learn how to drive the drone using the camera.
  • For more on drones being used for Forestry Research at UC Berkeley, go to https://nature.berkeley.edu/garbelottowp/?s=drone.

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Leaf tip scorch symptoms on redwood trees are found from the lower to upper canopy and include healthy leaves interspersed with brown and grey leaves or portions of leaves. Grey leaves typically have black margins into the healthy tissue.

Such symptoms are typically caused by a fungus called Pestalotiopsis funerea. They are commonly associated with drought, when rainfall occurs or when there is overhead watering around the tree. Drought stress predisposes plants to being infected, so the increased moisture facilitates the infection process. Normally the fungus will only seriously affect sprouts, as branches of adult tress will regrow areas killed by the infection within a year. In nursery settings it is important to increase ventilation and avoid big differences in watering regimes to minimize symptoms.

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SOD Blitzes include a training session for blitz volunteers on SOD and proper sampling, followed by time in the field  for collecting and marking sample locations. All necessary collection materials are provided to volunteers during the training session for use either the same day of the training or the day after. All samples are to be dropped off at a designated location (location announced at the training session).  There are approximately 20 SOD Blitzes in areas of California that have sudden oak death or at risk of disease establishment.  Most of the training sessions are offered on Saturday mornings.  SOD Blitz schedules for the coming year are posted annually during the last week of January at www.sodblitz.org.

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General Tree Care

Tree removal is most likely required if the tree is a hazard to property, people, or places where people congregate (paths, camp grounds, etc.) Bear in mind that individual limbs may be more of a hazard than the failure of the entire tree. A certified arborist should be consulted to determine whether tree removal is needed. Proper pruning, fertilizing, and watering of ornamental trees may improve the overall health of your trees and reduce the likelihood of removal.

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A tree’s Critical Root Zone (CRZ), sometimes also called the Root Protection Zone (RPZ), is defined as a circle on the ground corresponding to the dripline of the tree. Unfortunately the “dripline” of a tree can be irregular and hard to define. An alternative method of determining this dimension is to measure the diameter of the tree trunk in inches at breast height (DBH), multiplied by 12, as so:

Trunk diameter in inches at 4 1/2′ (1.4m) above grade x 12 = radius in feet of the CRZ (essentially, 1′ of CRZ radius per 1″ DBH or roughly 1.2m of CRZ per 10cm of DBH).

Bear in mind that root systems vary by depth and spread based on tree species, age, soil type, etc. The root systems of some oaks, for example, can extend well beyond the canopy dripline. This full root zone may extend 2 to 3 times beyond the CRZ.

Damage to the tree roots can be caused by any disturbance inside this area however bear in mind that nearby trenching, paving, or altering drainage patterns outside the immediate RPZ may also significantly affect the tree.

 

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Mulching should not hurt the general health of a tamarack tree; however, make sure the mulch is not piled up against the tree, but rather 1 foot away from the base of the trunk.  The mulch layer should be about 3″- 4″ thick and spread out to the dripline as much as possible for maximum benefit.

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The lab can, upon request, analyze wood chips at cost ($90 US dollars per sample).  Testing would confirm the presence or absence of any known dangerous pathogens.

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The first question to ask is what type of irrigation is being used currently on the hedge. Most landscape oak root fungus problems are due to overwatering in summer months. However, Thuja orientalis (=Platycladus orientalis) is quite susceptible to Armillaria even without heavy irrigation as highly susceptible species do not require excessively high soil moisture to be killed.

Prior to any new planting, as much of the old hedge (including roots) should be removed. In addition, any other decaying wood should be removed. Replanting with plants that do not require supplemental watering is best. Some CA natives that make good hedges include: ceanothus, island mountain mahogany, manzanita, and toyon. Non-native possibilities include Leyland cypress and Japanese privet. Keep in mind though that even plant species listed as resistant to oak root fungus will die if overwatered.

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A lot depends on when the tree is felled. If a tree is cut in winter, it is possible that the root system will experience an additional year of growth. What happens to the root system depends on many variables, including soil type and presence of other trees of the same species adjacent to the one being felled. If the same species is present and the root systems of neighboring trees are grafted, the roots may be kept alive by trees still standing.  Some species, like aspen, will actually sprout new shoots along the root system. Often a stump with roots that are alive will seal the cambium on the stump surface, resulting in a round bump along the entire circumference of the tree right over the cambial area (i.e. just inside the bark).

 

 

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It sounds like your tree is having problems providing enough water to the canopy to keep the foliage and cambium alive. If you are not watering it, that may be the problem. If you are watering it, your tree may have contracted a root disease. In that case, it is important to clear all organic material at least 3 feet around the stem, slightly expose the root system next to the stump to the air, avoid fertilizers, and water minimally.

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  • Make sure the prop blades are protected.
  • Modify the tail to include a collection device.  A very sharp blade at a sharp angle allows twigs to be cut off and often to remain caught in the space between the blade and tail.
  • Learn how to drive the drone using the camera.
  • For more on drones being used for Forestry Research at UC Berkeley, go to https://nature.berkeley.edu/garbelottowp/?s=drone.

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Leaf tip scorch symptoms on redwood trees are found from the lower to upper canopy and include healthy leaves interspersed with brown and grey leaves or portions of leaves. Grey leaves typically have black margins into the healthy tissue.

Such symptoms are typically caused by a fungus called Pestalotiopsis funerea. They are commonly associated with drought, when rainfall occurs or when there is overhead watering around the tree. Drought stress predisposes plants to being infected, so the increased moisture facilitates the infection process. Normally the fungus will only seriously affect sprouts, as branches of adult tress will regrow areas killed by the infection within a year. In nursery settings it is important to increase ventilation and avoid big differences in watering regimes to minimize symptoms.

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Oak Tree Care

The GSOB is a destructive insect pest that is decimating some oak species mostly in Southern California. It has been found infesting coast live oaks (Quercus agrifolia), California black oaks (Q. kelloggii) and canyon live oaks (Q. chrysolepis). It attacks the limbs of mature oak trees feeding in the conductive tissues and sapwood. Unfortunately the GSOB can be spread in cut firewood. Click here for additional information.

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As a general rule, avoid planting under the canopy of oak trees. It is recommended that you remove non-native plants from under oaks but avoid disturbing the soil or drainage patterns in the process. If you need to plant something, choose species that require similar soil types and watering. Avoid azaleas and rhododendrons as they typically require more water than is appropriate for oaks and may transmit diseases such as Sudden Oak Death.

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The Filbert weevil (Curculio occidentis) and Filbertworm (Curculio occidentis) are two common pests of oak acorns. The larvae of these insects live and feed in the acorn and can cause significant loses. There are currently no effective methods for control of these pests. Insect damaged acorns may also get secondary bacterial infections that cause drippy oak disease (Erwinia quercina). There are some very good guides available; the UC IPM Guide, the excellent Field Guide to Insects and Diseases of California Oaks, and UC Oak Woodland Management Guidelines.

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In general, healthy live oak trees are able to survive the dry seasons and extended droughts we experience in California. In most circumstances it is not necessary to water mature established live oak trees. Shallow watering can in fact cause additional problems. Over watering or improper watering of oak trees may promote the growth of bacteria that can damage the root hairs and the ability of the tree to absorb water from the soil. Deep watering of oaks may be appropriate in some circumstances, but it is advisable to consult a certified arborist regarding watering of oak trees especially mature trees.

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Although there may be few insects flying in the winter, the wet winter season (actually fall through spring) is a prime time for production of fruiting bodies by many wood decay fungi. The combination of fresh pruning wounds (especially large wounds), high spore densities of wood decay fungi, and moist conditions (favoring spore germination) can favor new infections by these fungi. From the standpoint of reducing risk of infection by wood decay fungi, pruning in late spring or early summer is probably preferable.

In general, pruning live branches from mature oaks should be kept to a minimum. However, if it is necessary to prune coast live oak branches, as long as they are less than 4″ in diameter, the presence of SOD is not a concern. Though, it is important to prune the oak correctly.

• Make sure you prune right where the tapering of the branch ends from the main stem or even slightly closer to the stem (1/2 in. from the end of the tapering towards the stem).

• Make sure the cut is clean and allows for water to drip without accumulating.

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Question:
My organization is considering launching a large-scale urban tree planting project in the Bay Area, with the goal of adding one million trees to the urban forest inventory within 15 years. We are interested in coast live oak (CLO) as a major component of the effort for a number of reasons, including the ease with which seed can be collected and planted, drought tolerance, habitat value, high potential for carbon sequestration and rainfall interception, and status as a “signature tree” of the local landscape.

The plan is to gather seed locally from many locations, and plant with minimal site preparation and no supplemental irrigation or other artificial life support systems. Trees will be monitored and cared for over time, and replanting will take place as needed to ensure that we continue to make progress toward our goal. Obviously we don’t want to exacerbate the sudden oak death problem. Our hope is that, on the contrary, widespread and large-scale planting with subsequent monitoring might help identify resistant trees. What recommendations do you have?

Answer:
First of all, this is a really neat project and you are absolutely correct about the benefits of planting CLO. Based on the information provided, the following are recommendations for the project:

In addition to coast live oak, it would also be good to plant Oregon white oak in the northern greater Bay Area, valley oak in the middle portion of the Bay Area, and blue oak in the southern part of the Bay Area. The rationale for this is that diversity/biodiversity is always good and the three alternate oak species are immune to SOD. A good overall planting ratio would be 75% CLO and 25% other species.

The big issue is going to be when California bay laurel is present, as it helps to spread Phytophthora ramorum. CLO should never be planted within 20-25 yards of bay for this reason. Unfortunately, bay has become invasive and SOD is actually increasing its abundance, so where bay is at least 10% of the stand, plant the other oak species recommended above. In riparian areas, bay should be left untouched.

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Once an oak has the oak root fungus Armillaria (often due to excessive watering),  most treatments will be ineffective. Be sure the base of the tree is free of mulch and other organic debris and slightly expose the root system at the root collar. While fertilizing may not help, try using one bark application of Agri-Fos + PentraBark. This application provides minimum nutrients, but strengthens the defense mechanisms of the tree. Of course, stop watering unless absolutely necessary. Water should never be administered from July-September.

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The symptoms on your oak may be caused by a range of issues. If oozing is accompanied by the presence of fine sawdust, then the tree is dying. Even if it is still green you may want to consider removing it if its failure may cause harm to people or property. The fine sawdust is caused by beetles tunneling in the tree. Oaks are only attacked by beetles when dying. If no sawdust is present, then the tree’s condition may be reversible.

Unfortunately, it is difficult to determine what may be the cause of the symptoms you describe. Sudden Oak Death (SOD) can attack an oak tree if California bay laurel is within 60 feet of the oak. You can use the free SODmap Mobile App to determine if you are in a high or moderate risk zone for SOD. To find out how to do that, go to www.sodmapmobile.org. There is also a YouTube video you can watch at https://youtu.be/zE0_q3EmIfs. If the information you gather suggests that it may be SOD, then repeat the phosphite bark application (such as Agri-Fos® combined with Pentra-Bark®) in the fall between October 30th and December 15th. You may also want to consider removal of bays within 30 feet from the oak. Go to http://nature.berkeley.edu/garbelottowp/?page_id=909 to find out about upcoming treatment training sessions to learn more about treatment options. If there are no bays within 60 feet of your oak and the SODmap mobile risk is low, then it likely isn’t SOD.

If you have watered your oak, it may be a root disease such as the oak root fungus or Phytophthora cinnamomi root disease. Make sure you stop watering and expose the upper root system to the air to slow disease progression. If you have never watered your oak, then it may be a secondary disease brought on by the long drought (ex. oak die-back fungus). These are diseases that are strongly affected by the genetics of the tree and weather conditions. In this case, you may want to try watering the tree now and then once again in 2 weeks. Then water once a month starting October 15th. Do not water between July 10th and October 15th. Watering should be done using a low flow approach to ensure that the soil gets wet up to 1 foot down and that no flooding of the tree ever occurs. Unfortunately, if the secondary disease is too advanced, despite all efforts, the tree may still die.

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Yes, you can apply phosphonate to your oak trees to help protect them from sudden oak death. You can find it in many Bay Area garden supply stores.

If you apply it topically to the bark, you will also need the surfactant Pentra-Bark® and you will need a sprayer. If you choose to inject it, you will need enough injectors to treat your largest tree (1 injector every 6 inches around the circumference). Treatments should be applied between November 1st and December 15th for best results.

For details on how to apply phosphonates, go to www.matteolab.org, “Treatment and Diagnosis” (at top of page).

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Once bark beetles attack the main stem (trunk) of an oak, the tree is on its way out.  Insecticide treatments will not save it. Oak beetles are attracted to trees that are severely compromised.  They cannot attack healthy trees.

The correct approach to avoid bark beetle infestations is not to apply insecticides, but rather to identify any health issues a tree may have.  As of October 2015, many trees are suffering from the prolonged drought and may need watering. Watering should be applied infrequently and never during the summer. Water-starved trees may display a thinner crown, with olive-green rather than dark-green leaves.  Leaves may also be crisp when folded between your fingers. If you opt to provide water to an oak tree that is severely water deprived, make sure the water reaches a depth of about one foot below the soil surface. Also make sure the flow is low to avoid flooding the base of the tree.

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When trying to determine if an oak may have SOD (caused by the plant pathogen Phytophthora ramorum), the first step is to determine if the tree lies within 1 km of a known outbreak.  This can be done by accessing SODMAP at www.sodmap.org or by uploading the free “SODMAP Mobile” app to your smartphone.  Stand next to the tree in question and tap the risk button.  A response of  moderate or high risk would suggest Phytophthora ramorum may be present. The next step is to confirm it is indeed P. ramorum. Make sure the oozing is not wetwood, or bacterial flux, which typically is associated with much more oozing and often has an unpleasant odor. Bacterial flux usually has a watery secretion running down the trunk that originates from a wound or branch crotch. If all symptoms align with SOD, the next step is to test for P. ramorum.  If a symptomatic California bay laurel tree is within 10 m of the oak, collect symptomatic bay leaves for testing. This is not a definite diagnosis for the oak, but it may be an acceptable one that does not involve wounding the oak tree for sampling.  Bay-based diagnosis for an oak may be less accurate after multiple years of drought, as bays may actually turn from SOD positive to SOD negative during extended dry conditions. One can get bay leaves tested by participating in one of the annual SOD blitzes (www.sodblitz.org) or by submitting samples to the California Department of Food and Agriculture.  Testing the oak requires debarking a portion of the tree until the margins of the putative SOD lesion under the bark are visible and then plating the margins of the lesion on Phytophthora-selective medium for laboratory analysis.

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When treating oak trees with phosphites to help prevent SOD, it may be beneficial to apply the topical treatment to bark that is dry.  Rain occurring after the treatment (even immediately after) does not affect the application. If injecting phosphites, it may be better to avoid rainy days, as lower evapotranspiration is often documented for trees in such conditions. Lower evapotranspiration rates may result in poor tree absorption of phosphites.

Note:  Topical treatments are most effective when applied in the fall, from November to early December. Injections should only be performed from fall to early winter.

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When looking at SODmap, you may wonder if P. ramorum-positive trees are close enough to pose a threat to trees on your property. Use the free App SODmap mobile to get the answer. Just tap the App risk function and it will tell you whether  infected trees trees are within 200 m (high risk) or 1,000 m (moderate risk).  If infected trees are further than 1,000 m, risk is typically low.  Alternatively, you can use Google Earth, tapping the icon with a “ruler” on the top bar.  Click your mouse on the closest infected tree and then move the mouse to your property. Be careful to actually move the mouse all the way to an oak tree within your property. The mouse should be drawing a line when you go from the infected tree to your oak.  When you click the mouse again on top of the oak on your property, the ruler will tell you the distance. The following is suggested:

1-  As the crow flies, measure from any infected tree to any oak of interest.

2-  Repeat the measurement process using 3 different infected trees that appear to be close to your property.

3- If distance is slightly higher than 200 m (high risk) or 1,000 m (moderate risk), but your property is downhill and/or downwind, you may still consider your oaks to be at risk.

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Sudden Oak Death

Sudden Oak Death can kill oak and tanoak trees but it vectored, or spread, primarily through the leaves of California bay laurel. You can see what SOD symptoms on bay leaves look like in this picture. In the spring of each year the lab hosts the SOD Blitz Survey Project where you can learn to spot SOD infections, collect leaves on your trees, and have them tested for SOD.

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There are a number of things to keep in mind regarding SOD disease management, you might want to check out these two guides: What to do before SOD arrives in your area and What to do after SOD arrives. There are also preventative chemical treatments available and SOD treatment training workshops conducted at UC Berkeley.

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Yes! There are free meetings and workshops that you can participate in throughout the year:

You may also want to check out the SOD Blitz project webpage for more information.

 

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Our lab does not provide a year-round SOD testing service. However, each spring we conduct the SOD Blitz Survey Project that trains “citizen-scientists” to collect leaf samples in their communities and provides free testing in our laboratory. You might also be interested in seeing how we test for SOD.

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There are currently two options for injections:

  • Chemjet® injectors (coil activated) – volume to be injected = 20 ml; 10% of current label dose; pressure 20 PSI (pressure of injector is already set)
  • Arborjet® injectors – volume to be injected = 40 ml; 5% of current label dose; pressure set at 35 PSI

Injections should be done every 2 years.  Every year you inject, stagger injection points 2 inches up and 2 inches sideways.
• As a rule of thumb, use one injection every 6 inches, with all injections at the same height.
• Start injections the first year as low as possible on trunk.
• Avoid injecting under branch stubs or punks.
• Injections should take 1-10 minutes to be absorbed. If they are absorbed in less than 1 minute, the material was not absorbed by vessels.  If it takes longer than 10 minutes to be absorbed, the timing was not good for the treatment.
• Good days/timing for injections are warm and breezy days between 10 am and 3 pm.
• Leave injection holes unplugged.

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Does the sudden oak death pathogen sporulate on madrone like it does on California bay laurel? Sudden oak death can kill small madrones and cause significant dieback of larger madrones.  While Phytophthora ramorum (the pathogen that causes sudden oak death) does sporulate on madrone, making in an infectious host, it is not a very effective at transmtting the pathogen as infected leaves whither rapidly, eliminating pathogen viability.

 

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Once down, spores from bay foliage will not travel nearly as far as they do in the canopy. The concern on the ground is that infested leaves, while still fresh, could have spores picked up during a wet event from soil splash onto the trunk of the tree. So, spread bay foliage in a thin layer in a sunny area that will promote drying. Be sure to not have foliage near the base of oak or tanoak trunks where soil splash/infection could occur.

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Both bay laurels and tanoaks can spread SOD while most oaks are not infectious.  Therefore, bay removal is typically aimed at protecting oaks. In the absence of bays, you may actually be able to facilitate survival of asymptomatic tanoaks, but only if their density is low (about 20 per acre).  A possible plan of action may thus be to eliminate all medium-sized bay trees (up to 20 inch DBH) that are not in a riparian setting and to eliminate all infected tanoaks. You may then decide to leave a few well-spaced tanoaks (50 feet minimum from one another), ensuring none of them are within 30 feet of an oak.

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Although there may be few insects flying in the winter, the wet winter season (actually fall through spring) is a prime time for production of fruiting bodies by many wood decay fungi. The combination of fresh pruning wounds (especially large wounds), high spore densities of wood decay fungi, and moist conditions (favoring spore germination) can favor new infections by these fungi. From the standpoint of reducing risk of infection by wood decay fungi, pruning in late spring or early summer is probably preferable.

In general, pruning live branches from mature oaks should be kept to a minimum. However, if it is necessary to prune coast live oak branches, as long as they are less than 4″ in diameter, the presence of SOD is not a concern. Though, it is important to prune the oak correctly.

• Make sure you prune right where the tapering of the branch ends from the main stem or even slightly closer to the stem (1/2 in. from the end of the tapering towards the stem).

• Make sure the cut is clean and allows for water to drip without accumulating.

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Phytophthora ramorum was not discovered as the causal agent of sudden oak death until 2000-2001.  Prior to then, it was not understood to be a nursery issue; therefore, there was no concern about spread from nurseries into the wildlands.  Since then, DNA analysis has confirmed that the pathogen was unknowingly introduced to both California and southern Oregon via infected nursery stock from multiple nurseries.  Prior to 2000 and our knowledge of the pathogen, it appears P. ramorum was moving around via the sale and trade of infected ornamental plants and possibly through movement of cuttings or rootstock for production.   While we do not know where the pathogen originates from or how ornamental plant nurseries originally were introduced to it, we believe the nursery to wildland introduction in California began around 1987 in Marin and Santa Cruz Counties.

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Oak testing is routinely done by arborists. It is a rather involved and tedious process that requires a fair amount of finesse and know how as it entails wounding the tree by shaving off the outer layer of bark to collect infected tissue. If you decide to have your oaks tested for SOD, consider going to the Trained Professionals List for arborists that have recently attended an official SOD seminar (Not intended to be a list of recommended professionals, this list does serve as an additional filter when trying to identify arborists that are up-to-date on the latest science-based SOD information.).

Alternatively, a less invasive method of determining the presence or absence of SOD on your property is to sample symptomatic bay leaves (See Hosts and Symptoms for SOD symptoms.). Keep in mind that any infested bay in the general vicinity (typically within 200 ft of an infected oak) may be the inoculum source for infection of your coast live oak. If bay sampling is your preferred method for pathogen detection, you can call your local UC Cooperative Extension office to find out if the California Department of Food and Agriculture is processing leaves from your county and, if so, what the protocol is for sample submissions. In lieu of submitting samples through your county, you can go to www.sodblitz.org to find out when a SOD Blitz will be held in your region (Dates for each year are posted by January 30th. Blitzes typically occur from March to June). Attending a blitz will afford you the opportunity to learn more about SOD, including the latest disease control strategies, during a 1-hour training session. At the end of the session you will be given all sampling materials and instructions for submissions. Blitz participants are free to submit as many leaves as necessary, meaning that you can send in all suspicious leaves from your property as well as from the neighborhood or nearby local parks. All leaves are processed at UC Berkeley and all sampling results are published in a database available at www.sodmap.org or through the free App SODmap mobile.

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There is no research or other observational evidence to indicate that glyphosate application increases Phytophthora ramorum infection. In mixed-evergreen and redwood forests some land managers use glyphosate to control invasive weeds, such as French broom, poison oak, and other problematic weeds. In coastal CA, these forest types contain coast live oak, California bay laurel, tanoak, and other plants susceptible to P. ramorum, but the disease is not known to spread or intensify due to glyphosate treatment.

Precautions. Always follow pesticide label instructions and consider non-pesticide alternatives to control pests. Pesticides can be injurious to humans, domestic animals, desirable plants, fish, and other wildlife if they are not handled or applied properly. Use all pesticides selectively and carefully. Follow recommended practices for the disposal of surplus pesticides and pesticide containers.

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If a homeowner suspects SOD is affecting their trees, there are a few options to get them tested. SOD kills several oak species and tanoaks, but it is primarily spread via infected California bay laurel leaves. Parties interested in testing for the presence of SOD can contact their local UC Farm Advisor or county Department of Agriculture to find out if they accept symptomatic bay laurel leaves for testing. (Go to Hosts and Symptoms on the California Oak Mortality Task Force [COMTF] website to learn what symptomatic bay leaves look like.)

Another option is to participate in a spring SOD Blitz. These are community-based, volunteer sampling efforts that are organized in cooperation with the Garbelotto lab. Training dates and locations are posted February 1st of each year for the upcoming sampling season at www.sodblitz.org. Training and sampling take just over an hour each and happen on the same scheduled weekend.

For infected oaks, call an arborist. A list of arborists that have attended a SOD training within the last 3 years is available on the Arborists and Applicators page of the COMTF website. NOTE: This list is only intended to be an additional filter for those looking for an arborist. It is not a list of recommended professionals.

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When thinking about P. ramorum dispersal, it is important to think about spread at two scales. First, the pathogen establishes itself on transmissive host leaves (e.g. California bay laurel, tanoak, redwood, rhododendron, and camellia) by moving up to several hundred meters during conducive rain events. Then, as the pathogen builds up, infection can spread from a transmissive host to an oak if it is within 20 m from the oak. If incidence of transmissive hosts is low in your area, chances are that an oak will not become infected even if a camellia or pittospsorum is a few meters away from it, so there is no need to remove these hosts if there are few bay laurels or tanoaks in your neighborhood. The second thing to keep in mind is that SOD is not everywhere. You can use SODmap mobile to help determine current levels of risk for oak infection on your property. If risk is low or negligible, again, there is no need to remove these plants, but they should be monitored for symptoms. The last thing to keep in mind is that the maximum distance between a transmissive host and an oak depends on the size of the transmissive host and on how infectious it may be (i.e. how well does it sporulate). For both camellia and pittosposrum, if the distance between your oak and plants is 10 m or more, they probably represent a low risk. If they are 7 m or less, they may represent a risk if your neighborhood has plenty of transmissive hosts.

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Question:
My organization is considering launching a large-scale urban tree planting project in the Bay Area, with the goal of adding one million trees to the urban forest inventory within 15 years. We are interested in coast live oak (CLO) as a major component of the effort for a number of reasons, including the ease with which seed can be collected and planted, drought tolerance, habitat value, high potential for carbon sequestration and rainfall interception, and status as a “signature tree” of the local landscape.

The plan is to gather seed locally from many locations, and plant with minimal site preparation and no supplemental irrigation or other artificial life support systems. Trees will be monitored and cared for over time, and replanting will take place as needed to ensure that we continue to make progress toward our goal. Obviously we don’t want to exacerbate the sudden oak death problem. Our hope is that, on the contrary, widespread and large-scale planting with subsequent monitoring might help identify resistant trees. What recommendations do you have?

Answer:
First of all, this is a really neat project and you are absolutely correct about the benefits of planting CLO. Based on the information provided, the following are recommendations for the project:

In addition to coast live oak, it would also be good to plant Oregon white oak in the northern greater Bay Area, valley oak in the middle portion of the Bay Area, and blue oak in the southern part of the Bay Area. The rationale for this is that diversity/biodiversity is always good and the three alternate oak species are immune to SOD. A good overall planting ratio would be 75% CLO and 25% other species.

The big issue is going to be when California bay laurel is present, as it helps to spread Phytophthora ramorum. CLO should never be planted within 20-25 yards of bay for this reason. Unfortunately, bay has become invasive and SOD is actually increasing its abundance, so where bay is at least 10% of the stand, plant the other oak species recommended above. In riparian areas, bay should be left untouched.

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Download sod map mobile and tap the risk button. If the risk shows up as high or moderate, call an arborist listed at http://www.suddenoakdeath.org/diagnosis-and-management/arborists-applicators/. If you get an insufficient data response, then see if you have any CA bay laurel trees within 20 yards of the oak. If you find any, do they have possible P. ramorum (pathogen that causes sudden oak death) symptoms (symptomatic photos: http://www.suddenoakdeath.org/library/photos/plant-symptom-photos/; host information: http://www.suddenoakdeath.org/diagnosis-and-management/hosts-and-symptoms/). If you do find questionable symptoms on bay, again, call an arborist listed at http://www.suddenoakdeath.org/diagnosis-and-management/arborists-applicators/ for a site visit.

 

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The symptoms on your oak may be caused by a range of issues. If oozing is accompanied by the presence of fine sawdust, then the tree is dying. Even if it is still green you may want to consider removing it if its failure may cause harm to people or property. The fine sawdust is caused by beetles tunneling in the tree. Oaks are only attacked by beetles when dying. If no sawdust is present, then the tree’s condition may be reversible.

Unfortunately, it is difficult to determine what may be the cause of the symptoms you describe. Sudden Oak Death (SOD) can attack an oak tree if California bay laurel is within 60 feet of the oak. You can use the free SODmap Mobile App to determine if you are in a high or moderate risk zone for SOD. To find out how to do that, go to www.sodmapmobile.org. There is also a YouTube video you can watch at https://youtu.be/zE0_q3EmIfs. If the information you gather suggests that it may be SOD, then repeat the phosphite bark application (such as Agri-Fos® combined with Pentra-Bark®) in the fall between October 30th and December 15th. You may also want to consider removal of bays within 30 feet from the oak. Go to http://nature.berkeley.edu/garbelottowp/?page_id=909 to find out about upcoming treatment training sessions to learn more about treatment options. If there are no bays within 60 feet of your oak and the SODmap mobile risk is low, then it likely isn’t SOD.

If you have watered your oak, it may be a root disease such as the oak root fungus or Phytophthora cinnamomi root disease. Make sure you stop watering and expose the upper root system to the air to slow disease progression. If you have never watered your oak, then it may be a secondary disease brought on by the long drought (ex. oak die-back fungus). These are diseases that are strongly affected by the genetics of the tree and weather conditions. In this case, you may want to try watering the tree now and then once again in 2 weeks. Then water once a month starting October 15th. Do not water between July 10th and October 15th. Watering should be done using a low flow approach to ensure that the soil gets wet up to 1 foot down and that no flooding of the tree ever occurs. Unfortunately, if the secondary disease is too advanced, despite all efforts, the tree may still die.

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Yes, you can apply phosphonate to your oak trees to help protect them from sudden oak death. You can find it in many Bay Area garden supply stores.

If you apply it topically to the bark, you will also need the surfactant Pentra-Bark® and you will need a sprayer. If you choose to inject it, you will need enough injectors to treat your largest tree (1 injector every 6 inches around the circumference). Treatments should be applied between November 1st and December 15th for best results.

For details on how to apply phosphonates, go to www.matteolab.org, “Treatment and Diagnosis” (at top of page).

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Research has identified coast live oak individuals that may be somewhat resistant to SOD, possibly because of the presence of some chemicals in the bark and phloem.  However, there is no information yet on how genetics and the environment may affect this trait.

Tanoak has some mother trees that produce SOD-tolerant seedlings and some that produce seedlings that respond very well to phosphonate treatments. These tanoak families are at UC Berkeley, but are not currently commercially available.

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Phosphonate is only intended to be used on trees that do NOT have sudden oak death (SOD). Once a tree is infected, it is of no use. It helps to boost the tree’s own immunity system against the pathogen. So, if a tree is very susceptible to P. ramorum (the pathogen that causes SOD), then it may still get infected and die, even with the phosphonate treatment. Really, the phosphonate just helps increase the odds that a moderately susceptible tree will be able to ward off infection. So, it is an odds game and you are just increasing your odds of success. Variables that contribute to success include tree susceptibility, disease pressure in the area, hosts present in the area, and environmental conditions.

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If SOD phosphite treatments are being applied by injection November 1st – December 15th, data has shown that treating every 2 years is sufficient. When preparing the injections, be sure to use the most current dosage recommendations as they have recently been updated. Current recommendations can be found at http://nature.berkeley.edu/garbelottowp/?page_id=2345. The new dosages are significantly more diluted than the original label dosages, yet are just as effective and cause almost no damage to the wood (the original label dosages do cause some wood damage).

If SOD phosphite treatments are being applied using a topical bark application, treat every 1 – 2 years. While data has shown that topical applications last for 18 months, fall treatments are the most effective. Therefore, in a county known to be infested, treat trees in riparian areas, within 20 miles of the coast, or within 2 miles of redwood forests every year. Treat trees in drier areas (of infested counties) every 2 years.

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The stems of poison oak plants can be infected by Phytophthora ramorum (the plant pathogen known to cause SOD); however, we do not know if leaves can be.

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The stems of poison oak plants can be infected by Phytophthora ramorum (the plant pathogen known to cause SOD); however, we do not know if leaves can be.

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While phosphonate injections to help control SOD are now recommended once every 2 years, spray applications should still be applied to the bark of oak trees annually.

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Based on the study published by the UC Berkeley Garbelotto lab in California Agriculture (http://nature.berkeley.edu/garbelotto/downloads/calag2009.pdf), azomite and/or lime washes alone are not effective in controlling SOD.

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In order to obtain maximum efficacy with oak phosphonate treatments, minimum temperatures should not be below 50 ºF. Maximum daytime temperatures should be higher than 60 ºF, but not exceed 85 ºF.

 

 

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Injections may be better for large trees with a regular shape, while topical applications may be better for large, irregular, gnarly trees.

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SOD Blitzes include a training session for blitz volunteers on SOD and proper sampling, followed by time in the field  for collecting and marking sample locations. All necessary collection materials are provided to volunteers during the training session for use either the same day of the training or the day after. All samples are to be dropped off at a designated location (location announced at the training session).  There are approximately 20 SOD Blitzes in areas of California that have sudden oak death or at risk of disease establishment.  Most of the training sessions are offered on Saturday mornings.  SOD Blitz schedules for the coming year are posted annually during the last week of January at www.sodblitz.org.

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Survival of P. ramorum (SOD pathogen) in dead hosts or non-plant substrates is extremely variable and strongly affected by climatic factors. Although a comprehensive study on this topic has not conducted, extrapolating from several studies we can say the following:

Soil becomes more infectious from late winter to early summer in the presence of rainfall, so any movement of soil away from a SOD-infested area from January to July could transport viable P. ramorum.

Keep the following in mind:

  • The larger the volume of soil moved, the greater the risk.
  • In organic rich soils (e.g. top layers of forest soils), pathogen survival is less than 18 months.
  • If P. ramorum is present in green waste incorporated in the soil, survival can be much longer (2 years or more).
  • In inert soils (e.g. potting mix), the pathogen can survive multiple years.  However, for all soils, areas with less temperate climates (cold winters, hot summers) may hasten loss of pathogen viability.

From a practical perspective, if infested forest soil is picked up on tires or shoes from late winter to early summer, the pathogen will likely remain viable for about 1 year, in the absence of incorporated green waste. If soil is picked up from late summer to early fall, survival duration is much less, possibly in the order of a few months.

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Survival of P. ramorum (SOD pathogen) in wood chips depends on a few factors:

  • Were the chips allowed to become wet?
  • What size are the chips?
  • Is green waste present?
  • What time of year was the wood chipped?
  • Where in California are the chips located?

Chips that are piled wet or tarped and include infected green waste (e.g. bay laurel leaves) may support pathogen viability for over 1 year, especially in mild coastal areas. If the wood is chipped in the summer and early fall and the chips are not piled, but rather broadcast in a 1-inch layer in a dry and sun-exposed area, pathogen viability may only be supported for a few weeks, especially if in hotter interior areas.

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When trying to determine if an oak may have SOD (caused by the plant pathogen Phytophthora ramorum), the first step is to determine if the tree lies within 1 km of a known outbreak.  This can be done by accessing SODMAP at www.sodmap.org or by uploading the free “SODMAP Mobile” app to your smartphone.  Stand next to the tree in question and tap the risk button.  A response of  moderate or high risk would suggest Phytophthora ramorum may be present. The next step is to confirm it is indeed P. ramorum. Make sure the oozing is not wetwood, or bacterial flux, which typically is associated with much more oozing and often has an unpleasant odor. Bacterial flux usually has a watery secretion running down the trunk that originates from a wound or branch crotch. If all symptoms align with SOD, the next step is to test for P. ramorum.  If a symptomatic California bay laurel tree is within 10 m of the oak, collect symptomatic bay leaves for testing. This is not a definite diagnosis for the oak, but it may be an acceptable one that does not involve wounding the oak tree for sampling.  Bay-based diagnosis for an oak may be less accurate after multiple years of drought, as bays may actually turn from SOD positive to SOD negative during extended dry conditions. One can get bay leaves tested by participating in one of the annual SOD blitzes (www.sodblitz.org) or by submitting samples to the California Department of Food and Agriculture.  Testing the oak requires debarking a portion of the tree until the margins of the putative SOD lesion under the bark are visible and then plating the margins of the lesion on Phytophthora-selective medium for laboratory analysis.

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When treating oak trees with phosphites to help prevent SOD, it may be beneficial to apply the topical treatment to bark that is dry.  Rain occurring after the treatment (even immediately after) does not affect the application. If injecting phosphites, it may be better to avoid rainy days, as lower evapotranspiration is often documented for trees in such conditions. Lower evapotranspiration rates may result in poor tree absorption of phosphites.

Note:  Topical treatments are most effective when applied in the fall, from November to early December. Injections should only be performed from fall to early winter.

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Bay shoots do not carry P. ramorum because the pathogen is not systemic in bay.  Each leaf is infected independently. Additionally, there is no root infection in most P. ramorum hosts,  particularly California bay laurel.  However, when bays re-sprout, they may be re-infected.

 

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It is always advisable to first have a tree tested before removal to be sure P. ramorum is present.  If you are noticing symptoms in spring, attend a nearby SOD Blitz for information on sampling and lab submissions.  For more information, go to sodblitz.org.

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When looking at SODmap, you may wonder if P. ramorum-positive trees are close enough to pose a threat to trees on your property. Use the free App SODmap mobile to get the answer. Just tap the App risk function and it will tell you whether  infected trees trees are within 200 m (high risk) or 1,000 m (moderate risk).  If infected trees are further than 1,000 m, risk is typically low.  Alternatively, you can use Google Earth, tapping the icon with a “ruler” on the top bar.  Click your mouse on the closest infected tree and then move the mouse to your property. Be careful to actually move the mouse all the way to an oak tree within your property. The mouse should be drawing a line when you go from the infected tree to your oak.  When you click the mouse again on top of the oak on your property, the ruler will tell you the distance. The following is suggested:

1-  As the crow flies, measure from any infected tree to any oak of interest.

2-  Repeat the measurement process using 3 different infected trees that appear to be close to your property.

3- If distance is slightly higher than 200 m (high risk) or 1,000 m (moderate risk), but your property is downhill and/or downwind, you may still consider your oaks to be at risk.

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