Redbay Decline: The Threat of Invasive Species

By Dylan Till –
Public Works Environmental Manager

Redbay (Persea borbonia) is a short-trunked tree that can reach a maximum height of 65 feet tall. Redbays are native to the coastal plain from Delaware to Florida, and habitats include lowland woods, coastal forests, and swamps. These native trees historically made up a large portion of the understory of the forested areas of Skidaway Island. They produce a bitter berry that many native species, especially birds, feed on and they are the host plant for Palmedes swallowtail (Papilio Palamedes) a species of butterfly that’s own native range corresponds almost exactly with that of the redbay.

The Redbay Ambrosia Beetle (Xyleborus glabratus) was first documented in the United States in 2002 in Port Wentworth, Georgia. The non-native insect was believed to be introduced accidently via wood shipping materials imported from its native range in Asia. Redbay Ambrosia Beetles, as their name implies, feed primarily on redbay trees. They carry with them a fungus Laurel Wilt (Raffaelea lauricola). Laurel wilt is introduced to trees via the beetles and the fungus destroys the systems that transport water and nutrients within the tree ultimately killing it.

Since 2002, the combination of Redbay Ambrosia Beetle and Laurel Wilt have been responsible for massive die offs of Redbay trees throughout the Southeast. The outbreak has spread to almost the entirety of the trees native range, and currently there is no fungicide or insecticide treatment that is effective.

Skidaway Island is, in a geographical sense, ground zero for Redbay decline in the United States. The Landings Association's Public Works Tree Crew was first established to remove dead Redbay trees from the center islands and common property. The number of dead Redbays was at a such a high level a group of residents formed a volunteer group “The Bay Tree Brigade” to assist in private property mass removal of dead bay trees. Currently, the state of Redbay trees within The Landings is that they seem to be able to reach three-to-four years in age before they die from exposure to Laurel Wilt. Redbay trees that are found dead on common property are removed by Public Works, and dead Redbay trees on private property are the responsibility of the homeowners to remove.

If you have a specific concern related to Redbay trees or other tree-related issues, please report the issue by calling the Public Works Office (912- 598-5506). You also can report an issue on SeeClickFix on TLA’s website ( or on the TLA app.



This article was originally published by The Landings Association on their website.

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