Ask An Arborist: October 29, 2009
Image 1 Submitted by John
Image 2 Submitted by John
John in Roswell Writes...
Our red oak developed a seep near the base of the trunk in late spring. Recently, another small seep has developed
(photos above). We want to know if this condition is something we should be concerned about and, if so, what remedial
measures can be taken to protect the health of this tree.
And The Answer Is...
Slime flux, also known as Bacterial Wet Wood is an infection that is common
to many hardwoods, especially oaks and tulip poplars. The wound is characterized
by an oozing or wet appearance that is dark and often foul-smelling. Bubbling
or foaming may also be seen at the infection site. Sap in the infected
area is fermented by the bacteria which also causes carbon dioxide gas
the build up in the affected tissue. The nearby bark cracks and peels away
from the area. Often, insects such as flies, bees and occasionally butterflies
will gather to drink the fermented oozing sap. I have seen insects become
intoxicated on the "brew."
The bacteria responsible are commonly found in the environment and are native to North America. They enter through wounds in
the tree which can be caused by mechanical injuries (lawnmowers, weed whackers, etc.) or where limbs have broken out of the
tree and so forth. Stress can leave trees susceptible to slime flux.
Always avoid injuring tree trunks with equipment by maintaining a mulched bed around the base of all trees.
Properly prune limbs so that the tree is able to seal off the wounds and reduce the risks of infection.
Fortunately, slime flux is rarely fatal to otherwise healthy trees. Do not attempt to apply anything to seal the wound but you
can remove any damaged bark with sharp pruners. Usually the wounds heal on their own after several weeks, but it can take
up to several months.
Trees suffering with slime flux should be kept as healthy as possible. Make sure that there is ample organic mulch (2-3 inches)
over the root zone preferably extending out as far as the branches. During times of drought, water deeply 1-2 times per week.
Apply a slow release fertilizer in mid spring. If your tree is growing in compacted soil, you may want to hire a tree professional
to aerate the root zone with the proper equipment.
For more information on slime flux, you may want to read these articles:
North Carolina State University
Iowa State University
If you are concerned about the trees in your landscape, you can contact a Certified Arborist or a professional tree company in
your area through the web site of the
Georgia Arborist Association.
If you have comments or questions about this article or want to submit a question that may be used in a future article, please
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