Laurel oak disease identified in Charleston

By Peter Kent

Oak DiseaseA deadly microorganism is killing Charleston ’s stately laurel oak trees. One of the victims was a 100-year-old tree in downtown Marion Park, remembered as the “the biggest, most magnificent tree in the park” by the city parks director.

Steve Jeffers, a Clemson plant pathologist who specializes in diseases of ornamental plants and trees, is working withCharleston arborists to find a cure. The problem first was identified by Brian Milleman of B&B ArborCare on Johns Island. Jeffers diagnosed the disease as Phytophthora root rot and trunk canker, which is caused by Phytophthora cinnamomi, a fungus-like organism that lives in the soil.

“Based on research done in California on a similar oak disease, I recommend arborists try Agri-Fos Systemic Fungicide to protect trees on an experimental basis,” said Jeffers. “This can be applied as a trunk spray if used with the surfactant Pentra-Bark.” Further research is needed to determine if live oaks or other native oak species also are susceptible to the fungus-like pathogen.

For information: Steve Jeffers, 864-656-7157,