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Who would have thought that California’s drought would have an upside? While the lack of rain negatively affects farm crops, the want for water actually helps the health of oak trees. In an article for SFGate, reporter Peter Fimrite explains how the state’s ongoing dry spell has reduced the rate of sudden oak death.

“The California drought is helping save the state’s signature tree – the mighty oak – by slowing down the spread of the plague-like disease scientists call sudden oak death.

The exceptionally dry conditions have drastically reduced the number of contagious spores that have killed hundreds of thousands of oak trees and raised havoc among tree lovers and scientists.

Preliminary results of surveys taken between April 4 and June 5 this year show an infection rate of between 2 and 10 percent of California bay laurel trees tested in 17 western counties between Fort Bragg and San Luis Obispo. That’s compared with between 20 and 80 percent during a normal year when rainfall is abundant.”

While the latest results sound hopeful, the threat nonetheless remains. The remaining spores can still cause tree disease in national forests, state parks, and private properties alike. Over a hundred other plant species can also be infected or carry the pathogen, which makes prompt detection and treatment crucial.


It is not always obvious that a tree has been affected, but there are typical signs you can watch out for. The trunk may develop cankers or decayed portions and start bleeding a thick, amber-orange to dark brown sap. The leaves may turn pale, yellow green, or brown, develop leaf spots, or fall off. If any tree on your property appears to harbor the disease, you can seek a Palo Alto tree service expert like Bay Area Tree Specialists that can perform proper assessment and treatment before it is too late.

A trusted arborist for San Jose and Palo Alto can check the affected tree and nearby plants for signs of infection. Such a licensed professional can confirm the diagnosis by obtaining a specimen for laboratory analysis. Even if the tree in question is declared free of the pathogen responsible for sudden oak death, the analysis can identify if beetles, parasites, and other microbes hasten its decay. From these findings, the arborist can recommend the best course of action.

(Source: Sudden oak death drying up with drought, SFGate, June 22, 2014)