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Anna, Teacher, writer, biologist
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Location is upstate New York. I have a red oak in my yard

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Location is upstate New York. I have a red oak in my yard that is about 18 - 20 years old, 10" dbh and 40' tall. Two years ago I noticed spotting on some leaves. The spots are about 1/16 ti 1/8" in diameter and dark reddish brown. The leaves then turned brown and dropped prematurely. The next spring the branches that had lost leaves did not leaf out. The problem seemed to start on the lower branches and move upward. Now in the third year there are only a few leaves left in the top of the crown and they are starting to drop. The tree will obviously die but I'm curious as to what the problem is. I am a forester but I've not seen this before. The only other symtom, probably unrelated, is the tree has had frost cracks form over the years. One crack near the butt has oozed a black stain.
Submitted: 6 years ago.
Category: General
Expert:  Anna replied 6 years ago.

I apologize that no one has responded to your question earlier. Different experts come online at various times; I just came online and saw your question.

Does this photo look similar to what has happened to your tree's leaves?


Thank you.

Customer: replied 6 years ago.
No, this photo looks like oak wilt which seems to have different characteristics. In your photo the leaves are green at the base and I don't see any spots. the leaves on my tree are covered with small spots. Some are still quite green, other than the brown spots, when they fall.
Expert:  Anna replied 6 years ago.
Thank you. How about this?

Customer: replied 6 years ago.
The small brown spots are similar but there are no large white patches. The leaves in your picture look like portiions are missing. All of my leaves are complete.
Expert:  Anna replied 6 years ago.
Well, at least we're ruling out some things. Are the little spots raised at all - like small galls?

Or, do they look like they might be small blisters just under the leaf surface?

Were they ever yellow before turning brown?

Customer: replied 6 years ago.
The spots are not raised. They don't appear as small blisters, just dark brown spots from the size of a pencil point to 1/8" in diameter. When the leaves fall they are still green but have started to dry and the leaf margins have started to curl. Once on the ground they turn brown quickly and the number of spots increases dramaticaly. My neighbor has a large red oak, 18 - 20" dbh, about 200 yards from mine. His tree has the same problem. In the last week it has lost a trmendous amount of foliage. The leaves are showing the exact same signs. Most of the foliage that is falling is coming from the lower branches. Is there a way I can send you photos? I have 2 examples of leaves on my desk that show the leaf soon after falling and what they look like after having been on the ground for a while.
Expert:  Anna replied 6 years ago.
Yes, you can send photos by clicking on REPLY. Then click on the paper clip icon in the toolbar. It's right next to the YouTube icon. Instructions will then pop up. sometimes Mac users don't see the toolbar. In that case you can post the photos on one of the free photo-sharing sites like Photobucket. Then put the link to them in a REPLY to me.

Will you also tell me what county you live in? There are so many diseases of oak tres that tend to look similar that often tests must be done. I can locate a source of free or low-cost help for you.

Customer: replied 6 years ago.
I live in Tioga County. Photos are attached.graphic
Expert:  Anna replied 6 years ago.
This appears to be a leaf spot fungal or bacterial infection, but it seems more serious than they usually are. Some of these infections haven't been identified, so we don't know all the causes. I recommend that you see your Cooperative Extension County Agent. The program in your county offers free assistance from Master Gardeners. Here's a link to their website:

Here is their contact information:

56 Main St.
Owego, NY 13827
Phone:(NNN) NNN-NNNNbr/>
They will probably need to see samples from the tree, and may need to run some tests on the leaves, but they should be able to help you. They are volunteers and there is no charge for their services.

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