First report of laurel wilt, caused by Raffaelea lauricola, on sassafras (Sassafras albidum) in Alabama
Laurel wilt, caused by Raffaelea lauricola, a fungal symbiont of the redbay ambrosia beetle, Xyleborus glabratus, is responsible for extensive mortality of native redbays (Persea borbonia and P. Palustris) in the coastal plains of the southeastern United States. The wilt also affect the more widespread sassafras, Sassafras albidum, particularly in areas where diseased redbays are common and populations of X. glabratus are high. Because sassafras stems were thought to lack chemicals that are attractive to the beetle, and sassafras tends to be widely scattered in forests, it was believed that the advance of the laurel wilt epidemic front might slow once it reach the edge of the natural range of redbay, which is restricted to the coastal plains of the Gulf and Atlantic coasts. In July and August of 2011, wilt-like symptoms, wilted and dead leaves, and streaks of black discoloration in the xylem were observed on 1 to 10 sassafras treees at each of three locations in Marego County, Alabama.