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Goal: Deliver Benefits to the Public Spicebush Is Also Affected by Laurel Wilt Disease

Stephen Fraedrich examining a spicebush plant

Forest Service plant pathologist Stephen Fraedrich examines the roots and stem of a spicebush plant infected with Raffaelea lauricola, the fungus that causes laurel wilt. In the background is a healthy, noninfected spicebush.


Millions of redbay and sassafras trees have been killed by laurel wilt disease over the last 15 years and the disease also affects other members of the laurel family. Spicebush is a common understory shrub in forests of the southeastern United States and is widely used as a landscape plant, but the disease had not been previously noted in this laurel family member. In September, 2015 a spicebush plant at a formal gardens in Sumter, SC exhibited wilt symptoms and was subsequently diagnosed with laurel wilt, indicating that this species can also be affected by this disease.


Laurel wilt is a highly destructive disease affecting redbay, sassafras and other members of the laurel plant family that are native to the United States. The disease is caused by a fungal pathogen that is carried by the redbay ambrosia beetle; both the beetle and the fungus were introduced from Asia around 2002. Spicebush is a member of the laurel family but the disease had not been previously found on this species. In September of 2015 a large spicebush plant was observed with symptoms of wilt at the Swan Lake – Iris Gardens in Sumter, South Carolina. Leaves wilted very rapidly over the entire plant and the sapwood had black discoloration which is characteristic of the disease. Redbay ambrosia beetles were found in the stem of the plant, and in laboratory examinations the fungus which causes the wilt was isolated from the sapwood tissues. Spicebush is a common understory shrub in forests of the southeastern United States, and is widely planted as a landscape species. Foresters, land managers, garden supervisors and homeowners should be alert for this disease and aware of the potential problems that this disease could have on spicebush as well as other species in the laurel family.

Principal Investigator
Stephen W. Fraedrich, Plant Pathologist
4552 - Insects, Diseases, and Invasive Plants
Strategic Program Area
Invasive Species
First report of laurel wilt, caused by Raffaelea lauricola, on spicebush (Lindera benzoin) in South Carolina
Research Partner
Susan Best, Plant Pathologist
External Partners
Dr. Thomas Harrington, University of Iowa
Mr. Brock McDaniel, Recreation and Parks Department, Sumter, SC