Redbays (Persea borbonia) were surprisingly abundant at the Indrio Savannahs Preserve when we visited on 3/8/2016, festooned with characteristic galls shown above. These characteristic galls are made by the red bay psyllid (Trioza magnoliae) and can be used to aid in the identification of our native bay trees: Redbay and swamp bay (Persea palusrris) trees.
These gall-making insects, long co-evolved with bay trees, cause only cosmetic damage. Unfortunately, most bay trees in the coastal plain have been decimated by laurel wilt, an invasive fungal disease (Raffaelea lauricola) spread by the invasive exotic redbay ambrosia beetle (Xyleborus glabratus).
Seeing so many young redbays was a stunning surprise, perhaps due to wildfire in 2013, including many in flower …
According to the Atlas of Florida plants, only red bay occurs in Indian River & St. Lucie counties. Swamp bay, though, is shown to be present in the adjacent counties.
Some botanists do not recognize these plants as different species. The University of Florida’s EDIS (Electronic Data Information Source) states that: “The taxonomy of this native evergreen tree has been somewhat controversial. Some lump swamp bay together with its close relative red bay.” Swamp bay , according to this source, is distinguished by habitat (palustris means swamp), by a rusty pubescence on the bottom of its leaves especially along mid vein, and rusty hairs on its flower stalks.
Swamp bay may be present in Indian River County, however. Note the rusty pubescence among the mid vein of the leaves and the rusty floral stalks (with unripe fruits) shown below on a bay tree photographed along Oslo Road.