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.

1 comment:

Irwin said...

Hi David,

I am enjoying your great photos. About the wilt killing the redbays, my sense, and it is just a hunch, is that the plants that are getting infected by foreign insects and diseases are part of a larger global problem. Its not just the introduction of diseases, it is the destruction of most of the ecosystems on the planet. Just as small pox and other european diseases killed many native people, we often don't take into account the enormous stress the natives were under feeling their entire culture, families, children being murdered, raped and turned into slaves. Of course they were vunerable to disease! Likewise, our ecosystems are being threatened with incredible destruction. Even if we stopped logging, we could never bring back the richness that was a long leaf forest or a hard wood swamp. We seem complacent to walk through our state parks and awe at the beauty. We don't notice that most of the animals that lived in the parks are gone. At least we have state parks.