The Seriousness of Sudden Oak Death
Photo credit California Oak Mortality Task Force

The Seriousness of Sudden Oak Death

The Midwest, previously safeguarded from the detrimental disease known as Sudden Oak Death, has now suffered a critical disaster.

In the state of Indiana, the Department of Natural Resources discovered several varieties of infected rhododendrons, which are believed to have originated in the Pacific Northwest. The West Coast is an area commonly impacted by the disease. The plants were sold in over ninety stores across the state, transferring contaminated material not just between Indiana counties, but to nine other states as well. These states had been unaffected by Sudden Oak Death before the incident.

Sudden Oak Death is a fungal disease that quickly eradicates healthy oak species. Additionally, over one hundred other plant species are vulnerable to infection. These species are capable of transferring the disease to any oak planted within a six-foot range. The fungus can be transported by the wind, making it even more dangerous to the environment. No treatment exists.

Why Is Sudden Oak Death So Serious?

First, the introduction of the disease to Indiana won’t simply destroy the state’s oak trees, but it now has the power to kill off oaks in other states that received infested shipments.

Second, Indiana’s Department of Natural Resources has to go through an extensive process to track and eliminate the infected plants from the shipment and also deal with infected oaks if this would occur. This involves inspecting any possible host plants that may be carrying the disease, too. Currently, over 1,500 rhododendrons have been destroyed, and approximately 1,500 more are being quarantined.

Third, shipment of any more plant material from the nurseries held responsible must undergo thorough examination to prevent further spread of the disease. Most importantly, however, the introduction of Sudden Oak Death could persist and result in future devastation, both economic and environmental.

Large sums of money are necessary to track and eliminate the infected varieties, as well as any discovered host plants. Stores that had been selling these plants may suffer business losses from frightened customers, too.

Even more, though, the death of thousands of oaks could negatively impact the lumber industry long-term. Oak is an expensive lumber material, and trees are a top value crop in Indiana among other states. With significantly fewer oaks, the lumber industry will suffer an extreme loss.

Finally, the death of these oaks will take away one of the most majestic trees in the nation. As oak trees age, they give a beautiful appearance, gracefully towering over their surroundings. Oaks are one of the most known historic plants, often complementing parks and plantations as well as the local landscape.

As seen, Sudden Oak Death has the power to devastate. With such great concerns for both the environment and economy, raising awareness of serious plant diseases is crucial. As consumers, tree-huggers, and everyday people, we should all take with us an important piece of information: spread of pests and disease is detrimental, and it is also preventable. Promoting awareness of such disasters as Sudden Oak Death is simply the first step in solution.

References:

Indianapolis Star Article on Sudden Oak Death

Nursery Management Magazine

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