Susceptibility to Laurel Wilt and disease incidence in two rare plant species, Pondberry and Pondspice Plant Disease.
Laurel wilt, caused by Raffaelea lauricola, has been responsible for extensive losses of redbay (Persea borbonia) in South Carolina and Georgia since 2003. Symptoms of the disease have been noted in other species of the Lauraceae such as the federally endangered pondberry (Lindera melissifolia) and the threatened pondspice (Litsea aestivalis). Pondberry and pondspice seedlings were inoculated with R. lauricola from redbay, and both species proved highly susceptible to laurel wilt. Field assessments found substantial mortality of pondberry and pondspice, but in many cases the losses were not attributable to laurel wilt. R. lauricola was isolated from only 4 of 29 symptomatic pondberry plants at one site, but the fungus was not recovered from three plants at another site. R. lauricola was isolated from one of two symptomatic pondspice plants at one site, and from five of 11 plants at another site, but not from any plant at a third site. Insect bore holes, similar to those produced by Xyleborus glabratus (the vector of laurel wilt), were found in some pondberry and pondspice stems, but adults were not found. Damage caused by Xylosandrus compactus was found in pondberry stems, but this ambrosia beetle does not appear to be a vector of R. lauricola. Xyleborinus saxeseni adults were found in a dying pondspice with laurel wilt, and R. lauricola was recovered from two of three adults. Isolates of R. lauricola from pondberry, pondspice, and X. saxeseni had rDNA sequences that were identical to previously characterized isolates, and inoculation tests confirmed that they were pathogenic to redbay. Because pondberry and pondspice tend to be shrubby plants with small stem diameters, these species may not be frequently attacked by X. glabratus unless in close proximity to larger diameter redbay.