Dead Oak Tree Branches

Asked June 16, 2020, 12:19 PM EDT

I have two large oak trees in my yard and they have quite a few lower dead branches. Is it safe to cut them out now or should I wait until the "pruning" dates to cut those out?

Livingston County Michigan

1 Response


Thank you for using the Ask an Expert service. I have gotten advice from a specialist on basically this same question before...though I did ask her about pruning dead branches during a lower oak wilt risk period. She said "if the branch is truly dead, there is no problem to remove it. Although there is always a risk of damaging nearby live branches."

It sounds like you are aware of the danger of promoting oak wilt infection if you prune oak trees now. The oak wilt risk period is currently at its highest right now, so I would suggest waiting until at least the mid-July for the "lower risk" period. See the Michigan Oak Wilt Coalition website:

Also this article on “Worried about oak wilt?” from MSU Extension

If you need to prune the oaks in the higher or lower risk for oak wilt infection -periods, you should apply a sealant to the pruning wound right after making the cut (especially in the higher risk period). You can use things such as latex paint, spray shellack, or a specific pruning sealant. It is not generally recommended to seal pruning wounds anymore (see article), but in the case of pruning oaks, especially if oaks need to be pruned during the high risk period of April through July, it is recommended to seal the pruning wounds to prevent the entry of the pathogenic fungus that causes oak wilt disease.

Article: Pruning and Care of Tree Wounds (See Callus Formation section) from Ohio State University Extension

Also, check out the Research/Resources page of the Michigan Oak Wilt Coalition website. Let me know if you have further questions.

Regards, Irene