Bacterial Wetwood and Alcoholic Flux

Many times, the first time you see a tree “leaking” will be when insects such as Green June Beetles or Hackberry Butterflies are attracted to the fluid seeping out of the trunk and draw your attention to it.

Bacterial Wetwood, also known as Slime Flux, is a bacterial disease that can affect a variety of tree species, such as oak, elm, mesquite, maples, and others. Bacterial Wetwood occurs when bacteria infect the wood of a tree, usually through a wound in the trunk, limb, or root. The bacteria multiply in the anaerobic environment and may thrive in the tree for several years before pressure builds up and forces the bacteria out of the tree. Because the ooze from the tree contains bacteria, it may have a foul odor. Other microorganisms grow in the flux, contributing to the smell. Insects are often attracted to the odor and congregate around the “leak”.

Although chronic, this disease is rarely serious, and the flux may continue year-round or appear just seasonally. Because it is chronic, it can contribute to a general decline in the tree health but is not known to directly cause tree death.

Stressed trees, especially drought-stressed trees, are particularly susceptible to this disease. Since there is no “cure” for Bacterial Wetwood, providing proper cultural methods will greatly improve the general health of the tree.

*Fertilize the tree in the spring with MicroLife organic fertilizer, spreading it out under the entire canopy.

*Proper pruning cuts are essential, encouraging rapid callusing of the wound.

*Regular deep irrigation under the entire canopy will prevent drought-stress. Dry winters require irrigation as well.

*Avoid wounding of the trunk by string trimmers, etc.

*Do not use “weed and feed” products under the canopy of the tree.

*Do not allow mulch to contact the trunk of the tree.

Alcoholic Flux, also called Frothy Flux, is not related to Bacterial Wetwood but does cause the tree to “leak” a white frothy substance. It is caused by microorganisms that ferment the sap in cracks in the tree. The frothy sap has a pleasant fermentative odor and persists for only a short time in the summer.

Alcoholic Flux is stress related, with heat stress being the most common factor. To avoid this problem, follow the same recommendations for good cultural practices outlined above for Bacterial Wetwood.