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The Trouble with Water Oaks

Our neighbor Pam Carroll brought this to my attention and asked me to share with everyone.

The following is condensed from recent columns written by Bill Finch.

The changes to our forests and gardens are a reflection of the things we do to them. And there are few changes to Alabama more dramatic than the way we've turned a handful of oak trees into monsters. Water oaks have thrived on our bad habits and our ignorance, and have begun to strangle the Alabama we love. Water oaks were once restricted mostly to floodplains, but when we began eliminating our native longleaf pine and cutting the best oaks out of our forests, water oaks took their place, and now threaten the landscape.

Here on the coast, we like to say water oaks spend 25 years growing and 25 years dying. They can easily grow 4 - 6 feet a year, and have virtually no immune system. Trees that look very large and old are usually no more than 30 or 40 , but are already showing severe signs of rot and decay, and are probably responsible for the majority of house damage during windstorms.

Water oaks promote the virulent spread of diseases that were once rare by acting as a host for fungus and rust. One particularly virulent fungus is armillaria which can spread to many woody plants and shrubs we enjoy, such as camellias, azaleas, hydrangeas, and citrus trees.

What does all this mean for your yard? Well, it's yet another reason to be very careful about the kinds of trees you cultivate or allow to grow in your yards.

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