hope had been high for Augusta State University's 400-year-old
Evidence of the tree's killer disease, which was discovered
in June, was no longer showing after an experimental
treatment. But now, although officials agree the treatment has
helped preserve the tree for the past three months, their hope
has faded as signs of the disease reappear.
"It has spread," said Henry Frischknecht, the owner of
Empire Tree and Turf in Augusta, referring to a 35-foot-long
section of the tree that only weeks ago showed evidence of
hypoxylon canker - considered the cancer of trees.
"We have slowed it up, though, no doubt. With the weather
conditions we had this year, if we had not done anything, it
would have been dead within a month."
discovery of the newly infected section came as bad news to
Max Brown, the university's grounds supervisor.
"We thought we had stopped (the disease)," he said. "But
it's showing its ugly face again."
Still, Mr. Frischknecht says he thinks his experimental
treatment - which is being used for the first time to battle
hypoxylon - could be effective.
"I've got my fingers crossed, but it is a tough one," he
said. "If we can get it through this season, I'm optimistic."
Named for the old Augusta Arsenal, the tree is the largest
and oldest white oak in Augusta and is the inspiration
for Augusta State's logo, according to the university's Web
site. Signs of hypoxylon were discovered on the tree about
three months ago.
Within the past few weeks, some of the oak's leaves
have changed to brown and one of its limbs recently broke and
fell to the ground, Mr. Brown said.
Three large limbs on the tree also have recently died, and
the Arsenal Oak has contracted a new leaf foliage
disease, Mr. Frischknecht said.
"It showed up three weeks ago," he said, noting that the
foliage disease could be discula, which can be deadly.
Mr. Frischknecht said his treatment - which includes two
types of fungicides - called fungicol and bannermax - has at
least slowed down the tree's hypoxylon. The fungicol has been
injected into the tree's sap system, and the bannermax is
sprayed on the tree's exterior. If the treatment proves
successful, Mr. Frischknecht said, it would be a major
"It would be heard across the country," he said.
Hypoxylon is a fungus that causes a white rot and cankering
on hardwood trees. It often contributes to the premature death
of trees weakened by drought or construction damage.
Mr. Frischknecht is seeking approval from Cornell
University to study his treatment on hypoxylon spores that
have been taken from the Arsenal Oak. Such a study at
Cornell's labs, he said, could help determine how effective
his treatment is.
But at Augusta State, only time will tell if the Arsenal
Oak will be cured.
"It will take at least a full year to see if it's
successful," Mr. Frischknecht said.
Reach Preston Sparks at (706) 828-3904.