By May 29, 2007

One of our oak trees is drunk.

Almost a year ago I wrote about giant mutant beetles (okay okay, they’re Hardwood Stump borers) that had surfaced in our yard. I killed another one of them this year already, so I know they’re around. At the time, we figured as long as they stayed outside they were harmless. It turns out that their incursions may have resulted in one of our oaks contracting slime flux.

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Lady Jaye reported that the trunk of our tree was oozing some sort of pus, and that it smelled like stale beer. Not being much of a drinker (at all), and having a shoddy sense of smell, I didn’t detect the same odor she did. Lady Jaye did some research and discovered that when trees suffer a massive injury or invasive attacks (such as boring), they secrete sap. Sometimes the tree is able to heal itself, and everything is fine. Other times, the sap becomes infected with bacteria, and the sap ferments. Hence the stale beer smell. Even though I couldn’t smell it, being around the tree was a little repulsive. The four pus-filled areas around the base of the tree oozed, hissed, and bubbled. When Lady Jaye went outside to take the pictures for this piece, one of the canker-like sores spurted pus at her. Fucking trees. I still think we should have cut them all down, but in the meantime we were determined to save this one.

The best recommendation we could find online was to mix a cup of bleach with a gallon of hot water and then douse the affected areas with the solution. The bleach is supposed to kill the bacteria causing the infection within the tree. I definitely smelled the bleach as we took turns pouring it directly onto the oozing sores. There was a lot more bubbling and popping after we poured the bleach on. The fermented sap had attracted various bugs, and the bleach took care of them also. According to what we could find, the insects themselves are interested in the sap, not the tree, so they shouldn’t hurt the tree itself. However, I’d rather discourage any more of those stump bitches from coming back if we can.

We are not sure if our treatment will save our tree or not. Colorado State University suggests that there is no known “cure” for slime flux. The infected area can exert as much as sixty pounds of pressure per square inch, causing cracks in the tree that allow for further flux infection. Aside from the “don’t mess with our trees, yo” defensiveness, the oak tree is very close to our house, and would certainly smash the shit out of it should it die and fall towards us. If the symptoms don’t clear up within a week, I’m going to call our county extension office and see what they can do about it. I might give the sores another dose of bleach today just for good measure.

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Mr. Oakpants had one too many at the local pub.

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6 Comments on "One of our oak trees is drunk."

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  1. Stomper says:

    At 60 lbs per square inch pressure – it’s watch out for the splinters! Don’t stand to close to that baby. And you wonder where writers got their ideas for some of the horror movies with plant-like things shooting spores at you?

    So they don’t give you much hope for saving the tree – it’ll make it or not but you can treat it in hopes that it helps. But did they say whether the boring beetles carry the bacteria with them or if it sets in after they’ve done their damage? I’m just wondering if hit the bore holes with bleach water and seal them as soon as you find them if that might prevent future infections. Plants oozing is just nasty!

    We had a problem with Japanese beetles and Dutch elm disease. And besides killing the beetles whenever we’d find them. Dad had a tar-like goop that he’d use to seal the damaged area. It didn’t help a couple trees but several survived for many years. Just wondering if they suggested anything like that to help prevent the infection?

  2. drfaulken says:

    In regards to where the bacteria comes from: who knows, I never really considered it coming from the creepy crawlies but it’s a possibility. The articles we read didn’t specifically state that infection comes from insects.

    The only treatment advice we could find was the bleach method.

  3. Uh oh. I noticed a little hole in the front of one of my oak trees in the front (near the base of the tree) a few weeks ago. I thought it was just carpenter bees. Think I should shoot goo (tar, something else) in it?

    Sounds nasty at your end — hope the bleach helps.

  4. Stomper says:

    While this is gross, it’s kind of cool. So the types of bacteria that have been identified in the disease causing your drunken tree Enterobacter, Klebsiella and Pseudomonas, at the genera level probably the species level cause nasty infections in humans and animals too. Some of which are oozing types of things in humans and animals too. So the bacteria are true to their nature regardless of the host.

    They also mention phytoplasms (closely related to mycoplasms – human/animal pathogen one species causes TB, another causes Mouse House Respiratory infections) another nasty bunch of bugs that produce mucus/oozing. These are typically harder to kill than true bacteria.

  5. drfaulken says:

    Lady Jaye and I celebrated your biological discovery by dousing the tree with another gallon of bleach water. Next step is Aquanet + kitchen match.

  6. Ringo says:

    OK, I’m going to reveal my true immaturity here…my apologies in advance. So, can you say “slime flux” five times fast? Sorry, couldn’t resist.