Redbays are common along Southeastern coast, and both residents and visitors are disturbed by the massive mortality. Deer browse on the evergreen foliage of the tree, and the fruit is eaten by songbirds, wild turkeys, and other animals. Redbay is also the primary host for the larvae of the palamedes swallowtail butterfly. But its not just the redbays that plant pathologists are worried about.
The fungus we isolated has also been associated with the death of other trees in the laurel family, and the Raffaelea sp. has been isolated from wilted sassafras, pondberry and pondspice, says Fraedrich. Our inoculation studies have shown that the fungus is deadly to these species as well as to spicebush, and avocado, but not to red maple.
The researchers concluded that there is reason to be concerned about the spread of the wilt to other members of the laurel family, which are common components in forests across the United States and other areas of the Americas. Recent studies have shown that California laurel, a West Coast species in the Lauraceae, is also susceptible to laurel wilt.
We are also very concerned about avocado, a species indigenous to Central America which is grown commercially in Florida and California, says Fraedrich. Our evaluation of avocado indicates that it is also susceptible to laurel wilt, and the wilt has been found recently in avocado trees growing in a residential area of Jacksonville, Florida.
|Contact: Stephen Fraedrich|
Southern Research Station - USDA Forest Service