Safe to cut a trail through woods

Asked April 20, 2016, 4:52 PM EDT

I have about 2.5 acres of red oak. I have a walking path around the property and would like to clean up some trees that fell during the winter blocking the path. I am not removing any wood from the area but just want to clean up the obstructions that fell into the pathway. Is it OK to cut trees that have fallen? I had several trees that died after we built the house several years ago and the woods have seem to stabilize after the construction. I am not cutting any wood on live trees. I am not aware of any oak wilt on the property.

Washington County Minnesota trees and shrubs oak wilt

3 Responses

The danger in pruning oak trees now (and from April to July) is that beetles carrying oak wilt are attracted to fresh wounds on a healthy tree.

This is not your situation. Healthy trees that have fallen can be safely cut (and even used for firewood). However, an important warning is that the trees must be oak wilt free. If you are uncertain of this (for instance, why did the oak fall in the first place?), the wood should head to the chipper.

Here is a resource:

Thank you for the reply. I have several oak trees that died many years ago. I am not sure if they died from oak wilt. They are still standing but most of the bark has fallen off naturally and no other trees have died for several years. I would like to just drop them and let them decompose naturally. Accessing the trees with heavy equipment is very hard.

Is the fungus still viable after the tree has been dead for years? I want to make sure if I drop the trees this fall after oak wilt season there is no chance of infecting other trees.

Trees that have been dead for several years should be fine to drop. As stated well by Dennis White the problem is trees that died last year and they can still have fungus that develops under the bark that attracts the insect. If in doubt of when a tree died let it alone. An oak, especially red oaks will form root grafts between other red oaks and a tree that has died within the last year (if cut down) will allow the live tree grafted by roots to pull in the fungus. Dead trees standing in the woods will not last long before they fall over. One of those topics that fit the old saying of, "let a sleeping dog lie".