Understanding Oak Wilt with Master Arborist Kevin Belter

Two weeks ago an ice storm devastated the areas’ Oak and Cedar trees as many split in half or lost huge limbs to the weight of the thick ice. It looked like a tornado ripped through every tree within a 30 mile radius of Dripping Springs.

The locals were buzzing with chatter about Oak wilt and trying to figure out the best way to prune and care for their damaged trees while reducing the risk of losing them to this terrible disease.

A few days later I got to attend a class on Oak wilt and tree care from Board Certified Master Arborist, Kevin Belter with Arbor Care and Consulting.

It was evident how much Kevin cared about his job and the trees he cares for. While hearing him talk at TNT I kept thinking of the kids show, the Lorax, when he appeared in the show and said, “I speak for the trees!” It was clear that Kevin cares deeply about preserving the natural beauty of this area and the trees that have been here before settlers ever ventured into the area.

He was going to school to become a theology professor and got into tree care while studying… in my opinion, he became a professor and educator on Oak wilt instead!

You can view his website HERE and read through article, after article on prevention, treatment and proper pruning. It is like a dissertation on Oak wilt on there!

The authorities on pruning and tree care in Texas (and nationally) consult with him to learn about Oak wilt… so he really knows his stuff!

I was excited to get together with him again and feature him on my blog to be a community resource to you all! Meet my new friend, Kevin…

Board Certified Master Arborist Kevin Belter with Arbor Care and Consulting in front of an ancient Oak in Dripping Springs, Texas

How did you become passionate about caring for trees?

Since I was a young boy I have always been mesmerized by the grandeur of nature.

While doing masters studies in Theology and Philosophy, I got hired on at a tree company to spend time outdoors and help pay for my studies.

I enjoyed it so much – the country boy in me won out and since then I have applied the discipline of rational and scientific thought as well as the ethics and faith in God into caring for His trees and the good people whose property they reside on.

What made you decide to specialize your business on Oak wilt?

Oak wilt is a devastating disease. It can be argued it is the worst tree disease in the world. So many of our native tree species are oaks here in central Texas that – I guess I was filled with both anger and a passion to partner with their steward-owners to help them save as many as we are able.

Board Certified Master Arborist Kevin Belter with Arbor Care and Consulting in Dripping Springs, Texas

What can buyers and sellers do to feel more confident about purchasing a property with Oak trees on it?

If oak wilt is present – employing a Board Certified Master Arborist to consult with and provide a realistic management plan (for both parties in a real estate transaction) is absolutely the best course of action.

Doing nothing or being overwhelmed by inaccurate information such as repeat treatments are always needed or that treatments don’t work (among many other incorrect fears), neither of those are the best option for either the seller or the buyer.

If oak wilt is not known to be present – it is always a good idea for the buyer to hire a Board Certified Master Arborist to inspect the property and for the sellers – it is also a good idea to “get a clean bill of health” if you will, which can proactively allay buyers concerns and which would most definitely aid in increasing the marketability of the property.

Board Certified Master Arborist Kevin Belter with Arbor Care and Consulting examining the ancient Oak at Founder's Park in Dripping Springs, Texas

What are the top things you want the public to know about Oak Wilt and prevention?

Trees absolutely contribute REAL value to a property (7% or more of the value in some studies!). Oak wilt kills that value and adds costs of removal and replanting to recoup that value. The least expensive option is to address the problem with the best management plan for your particular property. My website goes into great detail of what adjustments our current Texas protocol needs to get much better results. What we know and what actions we take based on that knowledge will get us better results!

Check out his website HERE.

Oak wilt is a devastating disease that affects oak trees nationwide and can quickly kill an entire stand of trees. It is prevalent in Hays County and central Texas. When we met for the photos he pointed out several areas in Founder’s Park and neighboring land that were affected by Oak wilt. Luckily, he didn’t spot any on the ancient oak in the middle of the football field, which he estimates is 350-400 years old. WOW! It is my favorite tree in Dripping and I was happy to hear this!

Board Certified Master Arborist Kevin Belter with Arbor Care and Consulting measuring the ancient Oak at Founder's Park in Dripping Springs, Texas

This disease is caused by a fungus that clogs up the water-conducting vessels of an oak tree, ultimately leading to wilting, leaf drop, and death.

One of the most telltale signs of Oak wilt is foliar symptoms. Click HERE for more info. Click HERE to see sample photos of infected live oak and red oak.

All new oak wilt centers are started by Nitidulid beetles covered with oak wilt fungal mat spores.

Infected tree removal doesn’t stop disease spread nor does disposing of live oak or white oak wood. New disease center prevention activity is best served by having an expert inspect oak wilt centers for red oaks infected by oak wilt and removing them prior to mat formation. Mat formation can ONLY happen on red oak trees.

Kevin recommends painting the prune cuts or wounds within a minute of damage to prevent this from happening (YEAR ROUND! Not just from February-June). Just use an oil based spray paint, but do it immediately! He has his pruning guys spray after making only three cuts before they can move on to more pruning.

Board Certified Master Arborist Kevin Belter with Arbor Care and Consulting in Dripping Springs, Texas

If you notice signs of oak wilt on a tree in your yard, it is important to have it inspected and treated as soon as possible to prevent the disease from spreading. You can contact Kevin and his team and they will come out and do a consultation and check your property and trees for Oak wilt.

There are several treatment options available for oak wilt, depending on the severity of the infection. One common method is to inject the tree with a fungicide that can help stop the spread of the disease. It looks like an IV wiggled around a tree with a small hose and he cuts into the tree in several spots to get the fungicide injected into the tree. This treatment is most effective when the disease is caught early, and the tree has not yet suffered significant damage.

Board Certified Master Arborist Kevin Belter with Arbor Care and Consulting treating a tree in Dripping Springs, Texas

If the disease has progressed too far, it may be necessary to remove the infected tree. To prevent the spread of oak wilt, it is important to not move Red Oak fire wood that may be contaminated. Red Oaks that die in oak wilt centers should be chipped, burned, buried or tarped.

Board Certified Master Arborist Kevin Belter with Arbor Care and Consulting in front of his Land Rover in Dripping Springs, Texas

Oak wilt is a serious disease that can have devastating effects on oak trees in central Texas. By being vigilant and taking proactive measures to prevent the spread of the disease, we can help protect our oak trees and preserve the beauty of our landscape for generations to come.

Texas Hill Country land at sunset in Dripping Springs, Texas

One really cool thing that Kevin can do is come and check your property, farm or ranch for Oak Wilt and give you a full report on it to provide peace of mind. This is beneficial when you are buying or selling property with Oaks on the property! Contact him today to learn more or to schedule a time for him to come and check the health of your trees.

There is so much to learn about stewarding the Texas Hill Country land well and I love meeting people who are passionate about it! Do you know of someone that I should meet and feature? Let me know!

Are you looking to buy or sell property in the Texas Hill Country? Just reach out and I can help! I’m a local realtor and love to give excellent customer service in real estate. Call today! 512-569-8480 or email at laurenclark@magnoliarealty.com to get started!

Click HERE to view current homes on the market.

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Click HERE to learn more about the local adventure and businesses!

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