About the laurel wilt disease

Welcome to Laurelwiltresearch.com, a site created for the curious as well as professional scientists to learn about the devastating tree disease, laurel wilt.  The goal of this site is educate the public on this complex and significant disease of forest and agricultural trees in the United States.  Additionally, laurelwiltresearch.com strives to become the hub for laurel wilt related scientific research, with pages containing a complete reference list of peer reviewed journal articles, diagnostic techniques, recommended management practices, as well as other relevant resources.

Global-Shipping-RoutesInternational travel and trade has led to an enormous amount of economic, intellectual, and social progress for the entire world.  BUT…… along with all the goods and materials transported around the world, hidden invaders can hide.  These newly introduced exotic organisms (animals, bacteria, fungi and plants) are rarely noticed and often “fly under the radar”; however, sometimes these new invaders can cause massive amount of unpredicted damages (ecological and monetary).  For plants and trees, the importation of new and exotic fungi (and fungus like organisms) has led to several disastrous plant disease epidemics, e.g. chestnut blight, white pine blister rust, Dutch elm disease, laurel wilt and more.

 

A brief history of laurel wilt disease

In 2001, the USDA Forest Service launched a program for the early detection of exotic bark and ambrosia beetles that could be entering the United States.  As part of their Early Detection and Rapid Response (EDRR) Pilot Project1, insect traps at were deployed at locations likely to capture new introductions (i.e. airports and international shipping ports).

In 2002, a new ambrosia beetle species (Xyleborus glabratus – Redbay ambrosia beetle) was captured in EDRR traps in Port Wentworth, near Savannah Georgia.  During 2003-2004, large amounts of wilting and dying redbay (Persea borbonia) trees were observed in some coastal areas of South Carolina and Georgia.   A closer examination revealed a consistent pattern: redbay trees that rapidly wilted and died; ambrosia beetle boring holes in the tree’s trunk; black stained wood that yielded the same undescribed fungus upon isolation onto culture media and the newly introduced ambrosia beetle, Xyleborus glabratus.  Shortly thereafter, scientists discovered the causal agent to be Raffaelea lauricola, a pathogenic fungus that is carried and introduced into its tree hosts by the ambrosia beetle X. glabratus as it bores into trees, looking for suitable habitat.  This disease was later named “laurel wilt”2.   Since the initial redbay mortality in 2003, the disease has spread across the Atlantic Coastal Plain causing the mortality of millions of redbay trees as well as causing disease to several other species within the plant family Lauraceae.

laurelwilt_spread_marc_hughes_2016

Research onto laurel wilt has delved into various disciplines of biology, including: plant pathology, entomology, mycology, genetics, chemical ecology, epidemiology, disease modeling, plant propagation, and much more.  For a comprehensive review on laurel wilt disease see Hughes et al. 20153 as well as other review papers posted under the “Scientific Research” tab.