The Tennessee Department of Agriculture (TDA) is advising forest landowners to monitor their sassafras trees after detecting new cases of laurel wilt disease in Robertson and Hamblen Counties. In the last quarter of 2019, the disease was detected in trees in Montgomery, Cheatham, Dickson and Williamson Counties. "These new detections of this invasive disease show a significant geographic jump across the state," State Forester David Arnold said. "This is yet another unfortunate example of an invasive pest impacting our forests. Landowners should take caution to prevent the spread of this disease if detected on their property."
Laurel wilt is a fungal disease caused by an invasive pathogen, Raffaelea lauricola, which can affect a range of plants, including sassafras and spicebush in Tennessee. Choked of water, trees wilt and die within a few weeks or months. Currently, no treatment has been developed that can cure laurel wilt disease or protect trees from infection. The best way to prevent the spread of laurel wilt is to avoid movement of firewood or other untreated timber. 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 laurel wilt disease, contact Forest Health Program Specialist Sam Gildiner at 615-837-5439 or firstname.lastname@example.org. TDA Division of Forestry staff will assist in identifying the disease and recommending management actions, if appropriate.