Hypoxylon Canker is a tree disease that is so common in this area every tree owner should know it. For most people it seems like they wake up one morning to find all the bark on their oak tree laying on the ground and the tree has died overnight. It is shocking and dismaying and most of us have had it happen at least once.
Probably all oak trees are susceptible to this disease which can also affect elm (particularly cedar elm), pecan, hickory, and a number of other trees. It is a fungus that is so prevalent in this area that there is really nothing a tree owner can do to prevent it. It invades a tree weakened by other environmental conditions—most notably drought. It is airborne meaning no insect or other vector is needed to spread it and one tree does not infect another. The spores are simply blowing in the wind.
The fungus invades the bark of the tree and when the tree becomes weakened by other factors, the fungus opportunistically invades the sapwood of the tree and decays it. The tree dies very quickly. Because the sapwood decays so quickly, a hypoxylon tree is a dangerous tree. It will fall with little provocation and tree owners should remove any tree close to a structure, electric wire or walkway or anywhere it is a threat to structures, animals or people. You can burn this wood. Burning it does not seem to aid the spread of the disease.
The best way to address this disease is to try to keep your trees healthy. Water them correctly and fertilize them as you can. Protect the roots from damage and keep areas around them well drained. Red oaks in particular seem to be susceptible to root damage and they will not tolerate our good intentions like building flower beds on them. A tree is a long term investment that requires your protection. That said, if you have many trees, you will likely lose some to hypoxylon canker no matter how hard you work at it.
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