LAUREL WILT DISEASE DETECTED ON TENNESSEE SASSAFRAS TREES

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Department of Agriculture (TDA) is advising forest landowners to monitor their sassafras trees after detecting laurel wilt disease in Dickson and Montgomery Counties.

Laurel wilt is a fungal disease caused by an invasive pathogen, Raffaelea lauricola, which can affect a range of plants in the Lauraceae family, including sassafras and spicebush in Tennessee.

“Sassafras and spicebush are important ecological species in Tennessee and found in all regions of the state,” State Forester David Arnold said. “This is yet another unfortunate example of an invasive pest impacting our forests.”

The disease is transmitted by the wood-boring redbay ambrosia beetle. Once infection occurs, the fungus spreads quickly throughout the tree’s vascular system, preventing the movement of water within the tree. Choked of water, trees wilt and die within a few weeks or months of becoming infected.

While sassafras has limited commercial value to the forest industry in Tennessee, it is socially and ecologically important. The wood is often used for small woodworking projects, interior finish, cooperage, and fence posts. The tree is the host plant for the spicebush swallowtail butterfly and adds to the biodiversity of our forested ecosystem.

The long distance spread of laurel wilt disease to Tennessee is likely due to due to human movement of contaminated wood, such as firewood. The movement of infested firewood is one of the leading causes of invasive species issues in the country. For more information on transporting treated firewood, visit www.firewoodscout.org/s/TN/.

Tennesseans are urged to monitor their sassafras trees for browning of leaves, leaf loss, and staining in the inner bark. If you suspect your trees might have this disease, contact Forest Health Program Specialist Sam Gildiner at 615-837-5439 or [email protected]. TDA Division of Forestry staff will assist in identifying the disease and recommending management actions, if appropriate.

The TDA Division of Forestry works to minimize health threats to Tennessee’s forest resources, including mismanagement, insects, and disease. To learn more about how Tennessee manages forest health, visit http://protecttnforests.org/.

About Brad Jones

Brad is the Owner/Operator of BBB TV 12, and has been with the company since August of 1996. Brad is a 1987 graduate of Coalfield High School and a 1995 graduate of the University of Tennessee College of Communications. He won the 1995 broadcast production student of the year award. Brad worked at Shop at Home, Inc. a home shopping network that was located in Knoxville, TN from 1993 - 1995 and then at Via TV (RSTV, Inc.) from 1995 - 1996. After some freelance work in Nashville, Brad joined the BBB Communications staff in August of 1996. A short stint at WVLT TV as a news photographer was in 2001, but he continued to work at BBB TV as well. Brad is married to Nicole Jenkins Jones, a 1990 graduate of Oak Ridge High School, who works at Oak Ridge Gastroenterology and Associates in Oak Ridge. They have 3 kids, Trevor Bogard, 25, Chandler 21, and Naomi 11. On December 12, 2013 they welcomed their first grandchild, Carter Ryan Bogard. Brad is also the assistant boys basketball coach at Coalfield High School for the past 9 years. In 2013-14 the Yellow Jackets won their first district title since 1991 and just the 4th in school history.

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