Disease may threaten La. red bay and sassafras trees

Richard Bogren, Ferrin, Donald M., Chandler, Brian R., Pollet, Dale K.  |  8/25/2009 12:10:39 AM

News Release Distributed 08/24/09

LSU AgCenter experts are warning Louisiana property owners to be on the lookout for laurel wilt, a devastating disease of red bay and sassafras trees. The disease recently was found in Jackson County, Miss.

Laurel wilt is caused by a fungus and is transmitted by the red bay ambrosia beetle, according to Dr. Don Ferrin, a plant pathologist with the LSU AgCenter. The disease can be spread long distances in firewood.

Initial symptoms of laurel wilt are a reddish or purplish discoloration of wilted foliage on infected trees, Ferrin said. When the bark is removed, the outer sapwood is seen to be black and discolored, and evidence of beetle damage is visible, he said.

Although the ambrosia beetle and the disease have not yet been found in Louisiana, residents should be on the alert for them, said Dr. Dale Pollet, an LSU AgCenter entomologist.

“It is particularly important that people be aware of the potential danger posed by the movement of firewood,” Pollet said.

Anyone seeing anything resembling the disease on trees or firewood should report it to Pollet in the LSU AgCenter Department of Entomology, 404 Life Sciences, Baton Rouge, La. 70803.

More information on this insect/disease complex is available in the Internet at http://www.fs.fed.us/r8/foresthealth/laurelwilt/index.shtml.

To learn about the dangers associated with the movement of firewood, visit the Web site http://www.aphis.usda.gov/newsroom/hot_issues/invasive_species&firewood/index.shtml

Rick Bogren

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