Bur oak blight discovered in city

Published 10:01 am Friday, October 4, 2013

Bur oak blight, a fungal disease that can weaken and kill bur oaks, has been confirmed in Albert Lea, according to city officials.

The disease has been found on trees on Park Avenue and in Graceland Cemetery and is most likely to be in other areas as well, said Parks Superintendent Joe Grossman, who also acts as the city arborist. He estimated less than 5 percent of the trees in the city are bur oak.

Grossman said he sent a sample from one tree into the University of Minnesota’s plant disease clinic, which confirmed the disease.

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Trees with the fungus will have branches and leaves that die from the bottom up. The leaves will start turning brown on the bottom, while the top of the tree is still green, he said.

Another easy way to tell going into fall and winter is whether the trees drop their leaves. Grossman said healthy bur oak trees will drop their leaves in the fall, but leaves on trees infected with the disease will stay on the tree.

He said though there does not appear to be much of the fungus in the city, it can be spread during rainy weather.

“The big thing is if we continue to have wet springs like we’ve had the last couple years, it’s just going to exacerbate the problem,” Grossman said.

People who suspect their trees may have bur oak blight are encouraged to call a tree service company for diagnosis. If the disease is caught early it can be treated with fungicide, he said.

Local tree service companies are gearing up for emerald ash borer infestations, which have been reported in other parts of the state.