oak tree demise, early browning

Asked September 8, 2019, 5:11 PM EDT

Hello! I live in Baltimore County, 21286, in a neighborhood called Fellowship Forest. There seems to be either oak disease or stress in a number of old trees in our neighborhood. Is there a blight we should be aware of? Can you visit and evaluate? Thanks, Kathleen

Baltimore County Maryland oak decline abiotic issues trees

1 Response

Oaks are declining all over the region, unfortunately. There is no single 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, white oaks are intolerant of water-logged soils. Last year's excessively wet weather may have contributed to the problem. Root stress can lead to early fall coloration, browning, and/or early leaf drop. This year, we have had drought and excessive heat in many areas. When trees are stressed by unfavorable environmental conditions, they become more susceptible to pest and disease issues as well.

Some oaks are dying of bacterial leaf scorch, which is more common in red oaks and pin oaks in urban/suburban situations. 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 the trees put out any new growth. If they do not, then they are finished. You could consult with a certified arborist if you would like to have any trees evaluated. You can find an arborist near you using this website from the International Society of Arboriculture. http://www.treesaregood.org/

Christa