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An Uncertain Future for American Lauraceae: A Lethal Threat from Redbay Ambrosia Beetle and Laurel Wilt Disease (A Review)

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DOI: 10.4236/ajps.2013.43A092    5,017 Downloads   8,218 Views Citations


Laurel wilt is a destructive vascular disease responsible for high mortality of American tree species in the family Lauraceae, particularly redbay (Persea borbonia) and swampbay (P. palustris), two dominant components of Coastal Plain forest communities in the southeastern United States. The disease syndrome emerged as a result of establishment of an exotic wood-boring beetle, Xyleborus glabratus, now known as the redbay ambrosia beetle. During gallery excavation, females of X. glabratus introduce a newly-described, obligatory fungal symbiont, Raffaelea lauricola. This fungus proliferates within the gallery and provides food for the beetles, but it has proven to be pathogenic to American lauraceous hosts, which have had no co-evolved history with R. lauricola. Presence of the foreign fungus elicits secretion of resins and formation of extensive parenchymal tyloses within xylem vessels. The extreme defensive response results in blockage of water transport, systemic wilt, and ultimately tree death. The beetle vector was first detected near Savannah, Georgia in 2002, and since has spread throughout the Southeast to become established in six states. The epidemic spread south through Florida more rapidly than predicted and currently threatens commercial production of avocado (Persea americana). Recent research indicates that California bay laurel (Umbellularia californica) can serve as a reproductive host for X. glabratus and is susceptible to laurel wilt disease. Thus, the US Pacific coastal forest ecosystems (and the California avocado industry) would be negatively impacted should the vector become established along the western coast. This review article summarizes our current understanding of the insect vector, the mycopathogen, and the susceptible host tree species. It also addresses elements of disease management and limitations with our current detection methods for redbay ambrosia beetle, which rely on manuka oil lures. Of the host-based attractants evaluated, cubeb oil shows the most promise as a potential new lure for X. glabratus.

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P. Kendra, W. Montgomery, J. Niogret and N. Epsky, "An Uncertain Future for American Lauraceae: A Lethal Threat from Redbay Ambrosia Beetle and Laurel Wilt Disease (A Review)," American Journal of Plant Sciences, Vol. 4 No. 3A, 2013, pp. 727-738. doi: 10.4236/ajps.2013.43A092.

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