Updated: Aug 10, 2022
Written by John Sepulveda, Certified Arborist WI-1454A
Verticillium wilt is a fungal disease that can cause severe damage or death to deciduous trees. It commonly affects maples and ash trees; however it can also affect catalpa, elm, lilac, and linden. The fungi responsible for the disease are Verticillium dahliae and Verticillium albo-atrum. The fungus exists in soil and enters through the tree’s roots.
Signs of verticillium wilt are individual branches rapidly wilting and dying. When the bark is peeled back on these branches, streaking of brown or green may be visible. The fungus can also infect other susceptible plants like flowers, vegetables and fruit trees, which allows it to spread easily.
Verticillium wilt cannot be cured but it can be treated. When we encounter trees that have verticillium wilt, we recommend pruning the dead branches. This allows the tree to respond with a healing strategy known as compartmentalization to stop the spread of the fungus. Read more about how trees heal. We may also recommend fertilization and/or other treatments to encourage tree health.
However, when all methods are exhausted the best practice is to replace the plant with a resistant species and to avoid mulches made from potentially infected trees to reduce the chance of spread. Conifers, gingkos, honey locusts and white oaks are some of the trees that are unaffected by the fungus and may be an ideal replacement.
If you've noticed rapidly wilting leaves or branches on your tree, give us a call at 414.257.2111. One of our certified arborists can visit your yard to diagnose the potential problem and recommend a plan for treatment.
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