Saturday, June 29, 2019

An update: red bay trees that died back from laurel wilt disease in 2008.

Three months before the red bay tree by the
pond turned brown, seemingly overnight,
two pileated woodpeckers gave warning
that bugs were infesting the tree.

Back in 2008, we were shocked when all the red bay trees (Persea borbonia) in our yard suddenly turned totally brown. One day they looked fine, the next day their leaves were all dead. After doing some research, I found that the cause for this was the laurel wilt disease, which was carried by the redbay ambrosia beetle, a tiny insect that entered this country in pallet wood from Asia in Savannah, Georgia in 2004. The beetle carries a fungus that blocks the xylem cells so the water stops flowing through the trees. This is why the symptoms are so sudden, because without the flow of water, the tree cannot function. The fungal disease is known as the laurel wilt disease. Other members of the Laurel family (Lauraeae) that are susceptible to this disease include both natives such as sassafras and spicebush, and non-natives such as avocado and camphortree. Here is a link to the article I wrote back then: Red Bay Trees are Dying.