Oak Wilt on Long Island

A disease that restricts water use in trees has been found in Central Islip. The Cornell Plant Disease Diagnostic Clinic has identified the disease as ‘Oak Wilt.’ The disease has been confirmed in New York State before, it was last seen in Schenectady County in 2008 and 2013. After a test sample of the trees returned positive for the disease, tree-care professionals removed and destroyed the trees to curb any spreading. As of right now, there is no known treatment to contain and kill oak wilt fungus. All officials can do is remove any trees in the vicinity which can be hosts. Basil Seggos the commissioner of the DEC has reported “The infestation is small and isolated making an aggressive eradication response warranted and feasible to address this serious disease. Additional oak trees will need to be removed in the immediate infected area to stop oak wilt in its tracks.” The DEC said that it will use protocols from the Schenectady County situation to control whats going on in Islip. There has been an emergency order put into place that establishes a ‘protective zone.’ This zone prohibits the removal of any dead, living, standing, cut or fallen oak trees, or any portions of the trees including branches, logs, stumps, roots, green oak lumber or firewood from the immediate area. It can be removed from the area if it has been chipped to less than one inch in two dimensions. This order also decrees a 150-foot red ‘oak free zone’ around the area where the infected trees were initially discovered. All red oaks found in these zones will be removed and destroyed by the DEC to protect the remaining healthy trees. The DEC will schedule a public meeting to address questions and concerns. There will be both aerial and ground surveys taken that will conduct how many trees need to be removed. This is supposed to happen within the next 6 months. Oak wilt kills thousands of trees and forests each year due to the wilt, primarily on the eastern United States. The disease is caused by a fungus that grows in the water-conducting vessels of infected trees. These fungus’ create gummy like plugs that block the ability to get water from the roots. Residents can report sudden leaf loss from oaks (as a possible sign of wilt) by calling 866-640-0652. For more information you can visit the DEC’s website here.

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