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Oak Tatters

May 19, 2004

I have not yet seen a case of oak tatters for 2004, but it is time to watch for this problem. The symptoms include a lack of interveinal leaf tissue, leaving foliage with only the major veins and a bit of tissue around the veins. We have seen this problem on white oaks for at least 10 years (probably longer) in Illinois. It has been reported in other states as well, including Iowa, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Missouri.

We do not know the cause of this injury. No disease problem has been implicated. Likewise insects are not the cause. The suspects at this time are environmental stress as leaves emerge, cold damage, and herbicide drift. One fact is known. The affected trees eventually produce healthy new leaves. It is possible that repeated injury could cause tree decline. That is another unknown. You can help your trees by following good horticultural practices to promote tree health, especially watering in periods of drought stress.

Some questions and answers about this problem are listed at http://www.extension.uiuc.edu/mg/oaktatters.htm. This site was developed to assist Illinois Master Gardeners in identifying suspect trees. Photos are posted as well. Another helpful site is the US Forest Service pest alert on tatters at http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/pest_ al/oaktatters/oaktatters.htm.

Author: Nancy Pataky


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