Sassafras-killing laurel wilt disease detected in Tennessee

Light breaking into an opening of a dense wooded area.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Department of Agriculture says a disease that kills sassafras trees has been detected in Dickson and Montgomery counties.

The department is advising residents to be on the lookout for signs of laurel wilt disease. They include browning of leaves, leaf loss, and staining in the inner bark. Those who suspect their trees might be diseased should contact the state Division of Forestry.

Laurel wilt is a fungal disease transmitted by the wood-boring redbay ambrosia beetle. It can affect a range of plants, including sassafras and spicebush.

State Forester David Arnold says in a news release that sassafras and spicebush are important ecological species in Tennessee. He says the disease is “another unfortunate example of an invasive pest impacting our forests.”

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