5 oaks on 1/2 acre are all dying. Can you offer advice as to why? What to do?

Asked August 14, 2019, 3:55 PM EDT

Hello! I live next to a wooded lot. Just this summer 5 oaks, ranging in circumference from 44" to 132", appear to be dying. (I'm sorry, I do not know what type of oak). It started with one, and then another, and another. The leaves turn wilty then brown from the crown downward. They remain on the tree until completely brown and shriveled. The two largest trees have weepy spots on their lower trunk where liguid is oozing from the tree (the three others do not). One tree has also lost a significant amount of its bark. I will attach 3 pics (as alotted), but I have more pics and video if it would be helpful. I'm hoping the we can determine the cause and prevent it from spreading - or even save these trees if at all possible. If you need more info, please let me know. Thank you so much for offering this service! - in Severna Park

Anne Arundel County Maryland

3 Responses

The weeping spots on the trunks may be due to slime flux https://extension.umd.edu/hgic/topics/slime-flux-and-wetwood, physical injury, borers, cankers, we cannot say for sure. Bark loss may be due to physical damage, cankers, wildlife, etc.

Here is more information. Oaks are dying all over the region. There is no one cause. For such a situation to occur over many species of oaks and a wide area, it is probably an environmental problem-- multiple years of drought and higher summer temperatures are a possibility. Also, gypsy moths may have weakened some trees in past years. When trees are stressed by unfavorable environmental conditions, they become more susceptible to pest and disease issues as well. There is no single disease or insect that is causing this -- it's a complex of factors.

Some oaks are dying of bacterial leaf scorch, but this is not common on white oaks. Oak wilt is not active in Maryland generally. Here is more about those diseases: https://extension.umd.edu/hgic/why-oak-trees-are-declining

Take a look at this publication about oak decline. https://extension.tennessee.edu/publications/Documents/SP675.pdf

There isn't really much you can do to "reverse" decline in mature oak trees, unfortunately. Wait until next spring to see if any of the currently leafless trees put out any new growth. If they do not, then they are finished. If you have specimen trees close to your home or a structure that you want to protect, you could consult with a certified arborist about pruning or taking down the declining trees. Trees that are not in close proximity to property can be left in place for use as wildlife snags if you wish.
You may want to contact a certified arborist for an onsite consultation regarding the health of the trees and the best way to proceed. http://www.treesaregood.org/


Thank you for your reply. The links you provided are very informative. Just today i discovered that there are orange striped oakworms present on the property (but not in an abundance that I can tell). Can they do enough damage to cause such large trees to wither?

Additionally, the property where the oaks are located does not perk, and did have standing water in sections through the spring (and ice in the winter). Can root systems be damaged by this? (3 of the trees border where water stood, 2 do not).

Thank you again for your help and information

No, orange striped oak worm damage alone would not take down a mature oak.

However, you are on the right track for the standing water. Of the dozen or so native oaks listed in "Native Plants for Wildlife Habitat and Conservation Landscaping" (which is available for viewing online), most are not listed as able to take wet areas.
Most trees/shrubs/plants can't survive long periods of time with 'wet feet', which does not allow needed oxygen to get to the roots, essentially drowning them.