ALPHARETTA, Ga. — One of the trees that has dominated Alpharetta’s downtown landscape for years will not bud this spring.

The city has determined the water oak on the corner of Milton Avenue and Canton Street has root rot and is in danger of falling. Local officials first learned of the tree’s condition in August following a report conducted by an independent certified arborist with Caldwell Tree Care.

Since then, arborists have inspected the tree and found significant decay in the main trunk, resulting in large hollow areas, according to the report. It has been classified as “Dead/Diseased/Hazardous.” 

“Unfortunately, it’s usually too late to stem the progress of Ganoderma root rot in a tree that has begun to show the conks and brackets that visibly signal infection and that can be found on this tree,” said David Shostak, chief arborist for the City of Alpharetta. “The fungus will have progressed too far for control by this time. Even before fruiting bodies become noticeable, the infected tree will often break or fall, demonstrating the fatal structural instability caused by the fungus.”

The root rot is not expected to spread, but there are ways citizens can help minimize such risks, said Assistant City Administrator James Drinkard. 

“No control is known for Ganoderma root rot, and oak trees are among the species that are particularly susceptible,” he said. “Good cultural practices — planting, fertilizing, watering, pruning, etc. — will help to maintain the health and vigor of any tree, making it less susceptible to the disease.”

The fungus is spread by spores released from fruiting bodies, known as conks, on the outside of the tree, according to Drinkard. The spores are dispersed by wind and water and infect open wounds of susceptible trees. 

“Avoid damage to tree trunks and roots,” Drinkard said. “Even small wounds from mowers and trimmers can allow infection by decay fungi.”

The rot found in the downtown Alpharetta tree makes it a risk to adjacent properties if it falls, Shostak said. 

To minimize the danger, Shostak has approved a permit to cut and remove the tree from the site, which is located on private property.

“The city has, for years, considered this tree an important part of Downtown Alpharetta and has fought to ensure its preservation,” Shostak said. “Sadly, time and disease have ended the fight, and we must allow the tree to be removed in order to ensure the safety of the public.”

The tree is estimated to be approximately 125 years old.

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