Since first being discovered in 2003, laurel wilt disease has been causing devastation to native red bay forests in Florida, Georgia, Mississippi and South Carolina threatens 2 native tree species (Lindera melissifolia and Litsea aestivalis) with extinction and poses as significant and imminent threat to avocado production. The disease is caused by the fungus Raffaelea lauricola and vectored to hosts in the Lauraceae by the exotic redbay ambrosia beetle (Xyleborus glabratus).
Since first being detected in avocado in the field in Florida in 2007, laurel wilt has killed many dooryard trees in southeastern Florida and is now at least within 70 miles of avocado production areas and continues to spread rapidly. The potential impact to the avocado industry is significant with an estimated value of $30 million yr-1 in Florida alone, and $375 million yr-1 in California, with smaller values in Hawaii in Texas. These values do not reflect the thousands of door-yard trees that are likely to be eliminated by this disease.
The impact of laurel wilt on native ecosystems has been significant with redbay being nearly wiped out where the disease occurs. Indirect effects from the loss of redbay and other species, such as rare obligate arthropods (e.g. Palamedes Swallowtail butterfly) are still being determined. The links below provide specific information on laurel wilt and its management.
- The USDA Forest Service Forest Health And Protection Southern Region
- The Florida Department of Agricultue and Consumer Services Save the Guac Website
- The Georgia Forestry Commission
- Researchers at University of Florida have published several EDIS Fact Sheets about Laurel wilt disease:
- Homeowner Detection of and Recommendations for Mitigating Redbay Ambrosia Beetle – Laurel Wilt Disease on Redbay and Avocado Trees in the Home Landscape
- Laurel Wilt: A Threat to Redbay, Avocado and Related Trees in Urban and Rural Landscapes
- Redbay Ambrosia Beetle-Laurel Wilt Pathogen: A Potential Major Problem for the Florida Avocado Industry