MINNEAPOLIS-ST. PAUL, MN — The oak wilt, a non-native, invasive fungal disease that kills all oak species in Minnesota, has been confirmed for the first time in Crow Wing County.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reminds residents and visitors in the area to avoid pruning oak trees until August and not to move firewood to prevent further spread.
Oak wilt is now found in 40 Minnesota counties and is slowly spreading north. A laboratory at the University of Minnesota Plant Disease Clinic confirmed several infected oak trees on private land on the east side of Gull Lake, 20 miles north of the previous northernmost location of oak wilt in this region.
DNR will treat this small oak wilt pocket this autumn, and the department will keep an eye out for new oak wilt infections in the surrounding area.
Oak trees within a 20-mile radius of any known oak wilt location are extremely vulnerable to the disease. Oaks in much of Crow Wing and southern Cass counties are now threatened due to this discovery.
The high-risk areas include Brainerd, Breezy Point, Crosby, Cross Lake, Ironton, Jenkins, Lake Shore, Nisswa, Pequot Lakes, and Pine River.
“The best thing anyone can do to prevent the spread of this deadly disease is to not prune oaks from April through July – the highest risk period for oak wilt transmission,” said Rachael Dube, Northwest Region forest health specialist.
Dube also reminds campers, cabin owners, and visitors not to move firewood during the peak of summer recreation in the Brainerd Lakes Area. Oak wilt can be spread over long distances by moving oak firewood. To avoid spreading oak wilt, only use locally sourced firewood or firewood bearing the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) certified seal.
A good indicator of oak wilt is a carpet of fallen leaves under an oak in mid-summer when leaves should still be on trees. Residents in Crow Wing or Cass County should keep an eye out for this sign and report any possible oak wilt to the Brainerd DNR Forestry Office at 218-203-4300.
Because oak wilt and other oak health issues have similar symptoms, sharing pictures of the tree is extremely helpful in determining a diagnosis.
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