Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Redbay Going Extinct?

How can it be? Walking from my house to the Wakulla River, about a half mile, I count no fewer than 50 redbays in the understory along the road and path. In fact, it's the MAIN tree in the understory. Our favorite stretch of the river is lined with hundreds of these beautiful bright green leafy trees, hanging shadily overhead as we paddle downstream.
So my response is numb disbelief - the denial stage of my grief - to the recent discovery that this ubiquitous fragrant beauty of our woods is dying.
A small ambrosia beetle has made its way from Asia to SE United States, stowed away in the wood of crates on a big ship. This insect bores into the heart of the redbay, infecting it with laurel wilt, and the tree dies. The disease is rapidly spreading west from the Atlantic coast, leaving browned and wilted trees, by the thousands, in it's wake. The redbay and sassafras are cousins of the avocado, and both are doomed... the avocado too? No word on that yet.
These are a few first images I've made of still-healthy trees in my yard. The last one is sassafras. Here's a great story in Terrain.org with all the details. Clicking on the last image - sassafras - will take you to a better version of the image on my website.