Laurel wilt is a deadly disease of the redbay, avocado and other trees in the laurel family. The disease has caused widespread damage to redbay tree populations in South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. On Daytona Beach's beachside, laurel wilt has significantly affected redbay trees, which comprise 25% of the tree canopy.
The disease is triggered by a fungus that stops water flow causing the tree's leaves to droop and turn reddish or purplish. The leaves eventually turn brown and remain on the tree for up to a year or more.
There is no cure for laurel wilt.
How the Disease Spreads
The fungus is carried into healthy trees by a very small insect, the redbay ambrosia beetle. The non-native insect was first detected in Georgia in 2002 and probably arrived from Asia in infested solid wood-packing materials used to ship commercial goods.
Experimental inoculations have had some success in providing trees immunity against the fungus, provided the treatment is done well before the tree shows evidence of this plague. Please contact a licensed tree professional for treatment options.
Removing Affected Trees
If you have affected trees, they should be removed as soon as possible, because the fungus remains active for at least four months after collapse. To remove the diseased tree, please cut it into 4-foot sections and place curbside for pick-up. The city's waste hauler, WastePro, will collect the diseased trees along with other yard trash on Wednesdays. WastePro will deliver the yard trash to the Tomoka Landfill.
Depending on the amount of discarded wood, there may be a fee for hauling it to the landfill. For a cost estimate, please contact WastePro at (386) 788-8890.
It is important to replace lost trees. The two hardiest, storm-resistant varieties recommended for Daytona Beach's beachside and mainland are Live Oaks and Southern (Bull Bay) Magnolia. Norfolk Island pines (very salt tolerant) are also good choices for beachside locations.
For more information, please contact the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) Volusia County extension office at (386) 257-6012 or visit their website.