Fungus threatens oak tree (Coverage by Augusta Chronicle)
400-year-old university symbol may be lost to ‘terminal cancer’
Augusta State University’s symbol, a more-than-400-year-oldtree called the Arsenal Oak, could be headed for the woodpile.
That could happen unless a prescribed treatment for its “cancer” – a tree fungus called hypoxylon canker – performs a miracle, according to a tree expert who examined the tree Thursday.
“Hypoxylon is basically like terminal cancer,” said Henry Frischknecht, owner of Empire Tree and Turf in Augusta. “I’m praying that this will work.”
On Thursday, Mr. Frischknecht and his workers cut five 12-inch-wide chunks from the tree where cankers exist and injected a new fungicidal treatment into the oak’s sap.
Mr. Frischknecht said the university has worked hard to keep the massive white oak in good shape. Named for the old Augusta Arsenal, the Arsenal Oak is the largest and oldest white oak in Augusta, according to the university’s Web site. It also is the inspiration for Augusta State’s logo.
However, a few weeks ago six silver-dollar-size spots were found on the tree, he said. The tree also didn’t produce acorns this year.
School officials have brought in several arborists to examine the tree, and two pathologists from Cornell University also have been consulted, Mr. Frischknecht said.
Steve Brady, a university spokesman, said officials are awaiting the arborists’ opinions before a making decision on the tree’s fate.
“We’re going to do whatever we can to possibly help the tree,” he said, adding that cutting the tree down “would be our last resort. It would be a very sad day for Augusta State history.”
Hypoxylon canker is a fungus that causes a white rot and cankering on hardwood trees. It often contributes to the premature death of trees that have been weakened by drought, construction damage or other problems.
Reach Preston Sparks at (706) 828-3904.