Oak Wilt

Oak Wilt, as shown in this photo, is taking over parts of the forest near Lake Wazee in Jackson County.

Contributed Photo

Jackson County Forestry and Parks will soon be transplanting trees at Lake Wazee to combat a growing oak wilt issue with trees in the park.

Oak wilt is a fungus that chokes off the capillaries in trees, essentially dehydrating the tree.

“The most common predisposing factors are injury; and human activity is among the leading causes of infection,” said Dr. David L. Roberts, a senior academic specialist at Michigan State University.

When that happens the trees start shedding leaves and brown from the top down affecting the aesthetics of the park.

Oak wilt also presents a problem that it can spread outward from tree to tree making large portions of the forest susceptible to the disease.

“Shade is always important to campers, they love having the big shaded areas,” Forestry and Parks assistant administrator Jon Schweitzer said.

Not only are the aesthetics of the park affected, but the value can be affected as oak wilt spreads.

“The presence of oak wilt can dramatically reduce property value because of the cost of containment of the disease or because so many oak trees have been eliminated by the disease. A once highly valued and lovely home site is no longer as desirable as it once was,” Roberts said.

Bringing in some more hardy trees should hopefully avoid the disease in the future as the red maple and white pine are less susceptible to oak wilt.

Native trees will also be easier to transplant into the park since they are accustomed to the conditions in Jackson County.

The county is not planning on purchasing the trees, but rather using transplants from trees already present in the county.

Schweitzer said these native trees would better be able to handle the shock of moving.

The process for transplanting these trees is also cost-effective for the county.

“Our only expenses are the full-time staff to supervise and the equipment costs of using a backhoe,” Schweitzer said.

The department will also have help from some inmates at the Jackson Correctional Institution to help keep the costs down.

Since the replacements are younger than the current trees, Schweitzer said the new trees will need some time to grow so they can provide shade like the current trees.

“We probably should have started this sooner, but it is a never-ending process,” Schweitzer said adding that these transplants have been done in the county before with a high rate of success.


Stephen Knoll is a reporter for Jackson County Chronicle. Contact him at 715-284-0085.

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