My coast live oak trunk is oozing. I sprayed the bark in January. Can you estimate how long it will be before the tree fails and we have to remove it?

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.

What is the Critical Root Zone around a tree?

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.