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By Mary Hightower
U of A System Division of AgricultureDec. 2, 2016
(Newsrooms: With image of fungus-stained sapwood at www.flickr.com/photos/uacescomm/31197483042 photo of young sassafras tree at www.flickr.com/photos/uacescomm/30535035134 and screenshot of fact sheet at www.flickr.com/photos/uacescomm/31197113372 )
LITTLE ROCK — An invasive beetle carrying an invasive disease is a threat to the tree
whose leaves provide gumbo’s filé and whose below-ground parts provide the unique
bite to root beer.
The disease can attack all members of the laurel family, and in Arkansas, that includes
sassafras and redbay trees, as well as spicebush and pondberry shrubs.
“The laurel wilt fungus and its carrier, the redbay ambrosia beetle, were first discovered
in Arkansas in late 2015,” said Tamara Walkingstick, associate director of the Arkansas
Forest Resources Center and an extension forester for the University of Arkansas System
Division of Agriculture.
Walkingstick said that as of August 2016, the disease was confirmed in two Arkansas
counties --- Cleveland and Bradley, “and we’re expecting to see that number increase
as forestry officials continue to search for both the disease and its beetle.”
The beetle was first identified near Savannah, Georgia, in 2002 and soon after, the
disease was found in declining redbay trees.
Symptoms of laurel wilt include:
If those two symptoms are present, peel some bark from the tree. There may be small
galleries cut into the sapwood by the beetles and the sapwood may have a dark stain,
indicating fungal infection.
If you observe sassafras trees displaying crown wilt, please immediately contact your
Cooperative Extension Service agent or your Arkansas Forestry Commission county forester and
report your observation.
To learn more about the symptoms of laurel wilt, download the fact sheet “Laurel Wilt:
An Invasive Pest of Sassafras in Arkansas,” at http://www.uaex.uada.edu/publications/pdf/FSA-5033.pdf
Contact your county extension office or visit www.uaex.uada.edu to learn more about landscape and forestry issues.
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension
and Research programs to all eligible persons without regard to race, color, sex,
gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital
or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and
is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.
# # #
Media Contact: Mary HightowerDir. of Communication ServicesU of A Division of AgricultureCooperative Extension Service(501) email@example.com