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Deadly Fungus Spreading Through Brooklyn’s Trees

Photo from Pixabay

Brooklyn’s trees have been taking a hit. Scientists found that 30 trees in the city have been infected by oak wilt, a kind of plant fungus spread primarily by beetles.

Arborists have jumped on the cause in attempts to bring some relief. Karen Snover-Clift, director of the Plant Disease Diagnostic Clinic at Cornell University, said, “It’s a devastating one.” Cornell is partnering with New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation, along with the Parks Department, to address the issue, New York Daily News reports.

Snover-Clift said,

Once a tree is infected, the best we can do is try to prevent it from being spread. Unfortunately, it’s a death sentence for that tree.

Oak wilt has been a scourge for trees since the 1940s, but the fungus did not appear in New York state until 2008, researchers say. Even then, the deadly disease was initially confined to Schenectady County. Then in 2016, the fungus spread to Brooklyn, Long Island and Canandaigua. Two trees in Queens have also been reported to harbor the fungus.

Formally known as Ceratocystis fagacearum, oak wilt limits the flow of water through a tree, causing leaves to die. An infected tree can die in as little as three weeks.

The fungus commonly spreads during the warm months of April to November. The only way to fight it is to cut down infected trees and monitor the healthy ones constantly.

Green-Wood Cemetery, where there are 600 oak trees, is one of the spots Snover-Clift and arborists are watching. She had previously collected samples of the fungus in the area for lab analysis.

Andrew Ulman, the Parks Department’s director of forestry, said that preserving oak trees from the fungal threat is important. “Trees are really part of the infrastructure as well. When you think about all the things they provide, from cleaning the air to homes for animals to reducing stormwater runoff, they’re an essential component.”


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