White Oak Question

Daniel Gill  |  6/27/2015 3:23:42 AM

Picture of skeletonized oak leaves

Picture of skeletonized oak leaves

Picture of white oak tree with damaged foliage.

I have a white oak that is approximately 70-75 feet tall. The age is unknown. The leaves at the bottom and center of the tree are turning brown. The leaves at the upper most part of the tree are still green. The tree otherwise looks healthy. What is the cause of this condition? Is the tree in danger of dying and is there anything I can do? I have three more white oaks on my property that have a few brown leaves, but most are green and healthy looking.

Thanks for the assistance.

- Larry H.


I think the news is good. The second image clearly shows the symptoms.

These appear to be skeletonized oak leaves, and this type of damage is caused by insects. The damage was caused by a heavy outbreak of a caterpillar on the tree such as the oak skeletonizer (Lepidoptera) or scarlet oak (slug) sawfly (Hymenoptera). Both types of pests cause identical damage - eating the leaf tissue and leaving veins.

Although the damage is very extensive, trees generally recover from damage to their foliage. The oak may send out a new flush of growth to replace the damaged leaves this summer.

Spraying a tree that large would be difficult, and I don't see any living larvae on the leaves in the photo. It is possible they have already run their course and have come and gone at this point. In that case, spraying would not help.

Dan Gill
Consumer Horticulture Specialist

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