Can I save my large oak trees.

Asked August 13, 2019, 1:29 PM EDT

I live in Owings Mills area by Soldiers Delight Park. I have some very old large oak trees that I'm worried about. I've already lost a couple trees. There seems to be some type of bug that is getting under the bark and doing damage then the Barks falling off. Is there any type of treatment I can do to help these trees stay alive ? I'm a retired senior and don't really have money for professional treatment. Please help if you can Thanks

Baltimore County Maryland

3 Responses

Sadly, we have been receiving many questions about declining oak trees.

Oaks are dying all over the region. There is not one cause. For such a situation to occur over many species of oaks and a wide area, it is probably an environmental problem--more drought, the record amount of rainfall we experienced last season, higher summer temperatures can be contributing factors. Also, gypsy moths may have weakened some trees in the past. There is no single disease or insect that is causing this.
Here is more information about oaks:
The first and third photo of the trunk suggests that this tree has been declining for a while. Yes, the holes can mean borers but they are not making the bark fall off. This is from the steady decline of the tree. Just based on the trunk it looks like the tree is past the point of being helped by any type of treatment. If these trees pose a hazard to property or people you need to
have an arborist look at them.


Thanks you for your response Deb. Yes the tree in the photos is already dead. I'm trying to figure out what killed it and how to save the rest of my old oak trees from the same thing happening. Any help, anything I can do. Thanks

Once a tree is dead, it's basically impossible to tell what killed it from examining the dead tree. That's because the organisms (disease or insect) that may have killed it are those that infect/infest living plants. When the tree dies, those organisms can no longer live on the tree. They need living plant tissue. They leave or die. New organisms move in that are able to live in or feed on dead material, but they are not the ones who killed the tree.

The holes in your tree are likely a beetle that feed on decomposing wood.

The time to diagnose an ailing plant is when the leaves show symptoms but are still alive.

Be mindful that at least half of plant problems are not caused by either insects or disease, but rather are abiotic problems. This means environmental or cultural problems, such as drowning in saturated soils or strangling from a girdling root.
Here is a good page with more examples: