Nature Notebook

Oak trees are a staple tree towering over us in the deciduous forests of southern Michigan. These trees provide vital food sources for wildlife and revenue for the timber industry in Michigan. White oaks and especially red oaks around the state and country though, are facing a threat to their survival.

Oak wilt, bretziella fagacearum, is a fungal disease spread through root systems of the trees and when new spores are moved by beetles to a freshly pruned or wounded tree. There are currently no ways to save an infected tree, and red oaks will usually die within the year. There are however mitigation strategies to save surrounding oaks, and if suspected, oak wilt should be reported when found.

To spot oak wilt, look for leaves on your red or white oaks that look wilted, sick, or discolored during their regular growing season. You can help protect against the spread of this disease by not pruning your oak trees during the growing season, especially between April and July, as exposure can attract the beetles which move the fungal spores and refraining from moving firewood.

Report suspected oak wilt in Michigan to the Department of Natural Resources Forest health division by email at or by phone at (517) 284-5895. You can also use an online reporting tool or smartphone app with the Midwest Invasive Species Information Network to report any suspected invasive species and remember to include pictures.

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