Oak Wilt – February 9, 2019

This too will pass.

A couple of decades ago the threat of Purple Loosestrife taking over our meadows was all over the news.  Today, Pharagmites is the talk of the town.  Not long-ago Zebra mussels hit the news.  We know about the dwindling populations of Monarchs.  Ditto for bees.  Our Ash trees are gone.  Yet the sky is not falling.

Should we not let nature do its thing?  Are all these abnormalities not just part of the ebb and flow of nature?    Is Oak Wilt a fad that tree huggers are unnecessarily panicking about?

Those who think we ought not worry about invasive species, animal extinction or foreign pests entering Canada have their heads in the sand.  They are probably the same folks who think climate change is a hoax.

The origin of Oak Wilt is not known.  But there is widespread belief that Emerald Ash Borer was likely introduced on wooden shipping pallets crossing the ocean.  Phragmites has similar origins.  It is the action of humans that has brought on these issues.  It follows then that humans ought to do whatever they can to mitigate the long-term ill effects of the missteps we’ve made.

When the Emerald Ash Borer came to North America, its natural predators did not come with it.  Researchers studied the possibility of introducing natural predators to North America but were unsuccessful.

What can we citizens do to prepare for the looming threat of Oak Wilt?  Other than taking the important precaution of not creating any open wounds or fresh cuts on Oaks in spring and summer, there is not much we can do.  We also need to avoid moving firewood.

The obvious course of action is planting new trees, not only to replace the trees that are dying, but also to replace trees that have been removed to make way for homes, roads, airports and parking lots.

We also need to undertake a comprehensive education program reminding us of the benefits of trees.

When planting new trees, we should favour planting native trees.  Tulip tree, Sugar Maple, Sycamore, Beech and Paper Birch are easy to grow and are popular nursery trees.  Unfortunately, Oaks are difficult to transplant and slow to establish and growers are not producing them in great numbers.  In the native conifer category, White Pine, White Cedar and Hemlock are good choices.

Non-native trees well suited for subdivisions, along highways and adverse city conditions include Autumn Fantasy Maple, varieties of Beech, Linden and Locust.