USDA Forest Service

Forest Health Protection, Southern Region

Forest Service Headquarters
FHP Headquarters
Southern Region
State and Private Forestry
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USDA Forest Service
Forest Health Protection
Region 8
1720 Peachtree Road, NW
Room 816 N
Atlanta, GA 30309

Phone: (404) 347-7478
Fax: (404) 347-1880

United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service.

Florida Forest Service USDA-APHIS Georgia Forestry Commission South Carolina Forestry Commission USDA Forest Service

Laurel Wilt

Seed Collection

Concern has been expressed that laurel wilt disease will cause the loss of entire redbay populations, or at least greatly reduce genetic diversity of redbay and other laurel species. Indeed, almost all mature redbay trees have been lost to laurel wilt in forested areas with a substantial redbay component along the Atlantic Coast in South Carolina, Georgia and Florida.

Seed collection is routinely used as a means to preserve the genetic diversity of a plant species. Although seed of many species can be dried, stored below 0o C and remain viable for many years, long-term seed storage does not seem feasible for redbay. Due to their high lipid content, seeds of species in the Lauraceae are generally temperature recalcitrant, meaning it is difficult or impossible to sufficiently reduce the moisture content of the seed for storage at sub-freezing temperatures without killing the seed.

A protocol for collecting and submitting redbay seed to the USDA Forest Service National Seed Lab (NSL) in Dry Branch, GA was initiated in the summer of 2007 to determine the length of time redbay seed could be stored and to serve as a short-term storage facility for seed collected from impacted or potentially impacted areas. Although redbay seed is no longer being requested from the public at this time, the following documents outline the procedures for this effort, which may be of use again in the future:
Redbay seed from a wide variety of locations has been collected since 2007 and is being stored at the NSL. Using traditional methods, redbay seed can be stored for only a few years at 3 o C with significant losses in viability each year.

Because long-term seed storage using traditional methods is not an option, other alternatives have been discussed. Cryopreservation of embryos from seeds has been identified as a possible option, but is expensive and labor intensive to implement on a large scale. Ex situ conservation of trees outside the southeastern Atlantic Coastal Plain region is another possibility, but that would require funding and a coordinated effort among organizations from across the region. More survey and impact data on species like sassafras, pondspice and pondberry would also be needed to help support and justify ex situ conservation programs for laurel wilt hosts. Because long-term germplasm preservation of these species is unlikely without an extensive outlay of money and resources, it would seem necessary to first demonstrate some likelihood of re-establishment success of host plant species into laurel wilt-impacted areas. The persistence of low-level RAB populations on places like Hilton Head Island (where the laurel wilt epidemic has already run its course) currently calls this likelihood into question.




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Additional Information

  • Redbay Germplasm Conservation - Saving the Pieces - Victor Vankus, USDA Forest Service, 1/19/2007 (Slideshow)


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USDA Forest Service - Forest Health Protection, Southern Region
Last Modified: Monday, 16 December 2013 at 14:18:30 CST

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