Oak wilt continues to be an issue throughout Austin, central Texas and much of the central part of the U.S. This often fatal disease is spread by a fungal organism known as Bretziella fagacearum (previously Ceratocystis f., but scientists often change organism names just to mess with us arborists!) Other than the name change, there’s little new about this disease, other than some news about DNA testing, but the likelihood of fast, accurate field test kits being available anytime soon is small. For more details on oak wilt, see my previous posts and my Oak Wilt Page.
At this time of year, whether you should or shouldn’t prune your oaks is quite forward in the minds of many neighborhood activists. You may have seen signs saying not to prune at this time of year. For years it has been recommended by various government agencies that one should avoid pruning oaks in the “spring”. The definition of spring has changed quite a bit over the years.
My advice to homeowners is that if you have oaks that must be pruned in the spring, either because they have large dead branches, or branches hitting buildings or at risk of being hit over streets, sidewalks, etc., leave this type of pruning to qualified professionals. Several years ago I organized a committee comprised of members from the TX Forest Service, TX Agricultural Extension (AgriLife) and ISA (commercial arborists) and we created these oak wilt pruning guide lines(they can also be found on the TFS oak wilt website.)
These guidelines state that pruning of this nature can be done during the spring time months. However, I think it is probably best to leave pruning during this time to professionals, and to postpone all non-essential pruning (like small dead branch or ball moss removal) to other times of the year, mostly out of an abundance of caution, as they say.