I Know Why the Old Tree Died.

Oak Wilt comes to the Homestead

I had seen the old tree in the employee parking lot of my former job and noted that it wasn’t doing very well but i didn’t think anything of why. It wasn’t my tree. I wasn’t sure what circumstances it had lived through. so i never gave much thought as to why it was struggling or what with. I became infatuated with a tree about 80 feet from it. It had big fan like leaves with points on the end and it flowered once a year with little delicate white blossoms. When this tree seeded i couldn’t resist and i collected the seeds. I was hoping i could rear an offspring from this tree on my property and raise it up to make white flowers over where i lived. It would be so pretty and quite a good shade tree once old enough. Back when i lived in the city i had great success with sprouting tree seeds. Some of them required a little slit cut in them so the leaves could get water and escape once growing…others needed the outside skin of the shell removed all together. Some just needed the paper-like seed pod peeled away from the seed. In the country i had less success sprouting trees. Whatever i buried the raccoons and foxes dug up and ate. So i collected a whole half a grocery bag of the seeds, anticipating the critters would do this and hoping if i grabbed enough of them some of them would stay in the ground after they pillaged my new planting site. I think i carried the spores from the sick oak tree on those seeds to my property and here’s why. A cluster of trees on my property has a bad case of oak wilt. One tree is dead and 6 trees are afflicted. I called up an oak wilt specialist that has a treatment with an 80 percent success rate, great reviews, and an A+ better business bureau rating. It is the only company in Texas that claims they can stop the progression of oak wilt. They have a two fold treatment process but they are basically supplying the trees with bacteria and nutrients to strengthen their immune systems and give them energy so they win the battle they are fighting, the same way a doctor might prescribe vitamin c, zinc, and a probiotic to help someone recovering from the flu or a nasty virus…the immune system lives in the gut and so to beef up the gut bacteria is important. Anyways, i love those trees. I know every oak, cedar, mimosa, and elm that i have on the property. It’s not just woods to me. I know and care for and trim every tree i have on the property. I leave the oaks be unless there are dead branches. Then i cut those off to give the tree a chance to focus on the healthy part. I trim the bottom branches off the cedars so they look more like trees than bushes. I trim the new growth off the mimosas every year so they will focus on making a main trunk rather than putting out an inordinate amount of spider leg like skinny branches from the base. I recognize each one of these trees as an individual with a life force, and i had one dead and 6 sick trees. The realization came at a bad time for me financially and i agonized as to whether i should treat the trees for oak wilt or not. If i did not the sick trees died for sure. If i did not, they could not promise me it wouldn’t spread through the root system of all the oak trees on the property and i had two 200 year old oak trees and two 250 year old oak trees. I wanted to protect them and letting something kill these 250 year old oak trees was NOT an option. It would be a travesty against all of time and space. The ancient trees had to be protected at all costs. That was just that. So i wrote the check and the treatment was done. Every oak tree on the property was treated, right down to the new 2 foot baby oak that had spawned itself at some point. I was told if the sick trees did not replenish then they were just in the twenty percent that dont heal from this treatment. However, if the sick trees got sicker or the healthy trees fell sick, they would return and do the treatment a second time as part of the service guarantee. They could not guarantee the sick trees would survive but they could guarantee the healthy ones wouldn’t fall ill after the treatment. So, i’ve been watching the sick trees like a hawk, searching for any sign of a come back. Four of the six have new green leaves on parts of them that the crew told me was a good sign that they were still fighting and trying, but they had those before the treatment was performed. I will continue to monitor them and update the situation as i am able. The reason i think i carried the oak wilt to my property on the backs of the mystery tree seeds is because i dug a hole and planted them right under the tree that died. Behind the tree that died is the cluster of sick trees. My neighbors on two sides have oak wilt in their trees and their fields look pretty desolate because they have 40 acres and 100+ acres, neither of them can afford to treat. I could only afford the price per acre because i have 2 acres. There is something to be said for living on a manageable piece of land. The more land you have the more it costs to treat, fence, clear, water… the oak wilt guy said the trees along my fence line, directly in line to inherit the terrible sickness from my neighbors’ trees through their root systems, are not sick. So, while it might have been on the way, i did not inherit this oak wilt from my neighbors trees root systems. He said in all likelihood a bug got into an infected tree and carried the spores from the trees open wound to my trees and deposited it on them when crawling around or burrowing into my trees. I thought of those mystery seeds in the employee parking lot and the old dead oak roped off with caution tape. I am the bug. I carried the spores here and buried them where they had access to the roots of the dead tree. Let my mistake be a lesson for others. Don’t plant seeds you find on the ground on your property. Leave them there. They might contain oak wilt. You never know. I have wracked my brain about why this happened and what im supposed to learn from this and i’ve come up with two reasons aside from the obvious which is that im human and i made a mistake. 1. Since in the last six months oak wilt has ripped through my neighbors properties on two sides like wild fire it was probably destined to come here at some point and now the trees have a strengthened immune system to battle it ahead of time rather than in hindsight, and if they get it from the neighbor trees im entitled to another treatment which would address it. 2. I recently quit my job for a job with a much lighter paycheck and quit school altogether. That is a long story for another day, which i promise i will tell in time. God put it on my heart to do something that didnt make sense when drawn out on paper and i took a leap of faith, unsure if it was the right thing to do but 90 percent sure it was the thing that God was asking of me. If i had not had to use a large chunk of the savings account to pay for the tree treatment at a time when money coming in was now less than money going out….i would have relied on my nest egg, not God, to provide for the next year. Now that i’ve drained a good portion of the nest egg, im living very frugally and im having to trust that God has a plan and walk forwards one step at a time on a path that i can’t yet see. I know in my bones that im supposed to be here and so i let go. I will let go and let God.

These are the afflicted trees. Unfortunately the little teenage tree in the front is the one that is dead beyond repair. It bit the dust quickly while the older ones are hanging on, clawing at survival.

This tree is still healthy. I have to protect it and its 250 year old comrades. Oaks are not flashy trees but they are good trees and they deserve to live to be old and majestic as the usually short and stubby trees stretch towards the sky.

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