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Unknown disease killing off Florida's state tree

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DogPoundPup Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-23-08 12:12 PM
Original message
Unknown disease killing off Florida's state tree
The sabal palm, Florida's state tree, is under attack by a microscopic killer that has scientists stumped.

An unknown but growing number of sabal palms in the Tampa Bay area have died from a mysterious disease that researchers are struggling to identify. Even after scientists pinpoint the disease - and that could take years - they will have to learn what insect spreads it. The disease will be tough to stop.

"It's not simply a matter that we will be able to eradicate," said Monica Elliott, a University of Florida plant pathologist. "That's not very likely."

Sabal palms, also known cabbage palms, can grow to 50 feet. In the United States, they can be found from the Florida Keys to parts of North Carolina and can grow in marshes, woodlands or along the coastline. The palm, which is also South Carolina's state tree, is featured in Florida's state seal and was designated the state tree in the 1950s.

Tim Schubert, an administrator and pathologist in Florida's Division of Plant Industry, said it's impossible to say what the disease's eventual effect on the state's sabal palms will be but "it's not going to be good."

"There's going to be fewer palms. They may present a less attractive tree in nature because of this new disease showing up," he said.

This is not the first time iconic Florida trees have been ravaged by disease. The state's orange and other citrus trees are being attacked by canker and greening. Scientists have been unable to stop either.

The new disease destroys the sabal palm and its other victims, which include Canary Island date palms and queen palms, from within. It's a tough diagnosis, Elliott said, often confused with nutrient deficiencies or excessive trimming. First to go are the lower leaves in the tree's canopy, followed by a dead spear leaf. Finally, the palm's canopy collapses.
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Hestia Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-23-08 12:31 PM
Response to Original message
1. Think maybe it has something to do with all the salt water leaching into waterways from
drilling wells too deep? Nah, it has to be a 'disease' doesn't it?
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dipsydoodle Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-23-08 12:45 PM
Response to Original message
2. We had a similar situation
with elm trees here in the UK back in the seventies - I think you had it too : Dutch Elm Disease. It wiped the majority of our old elms across the country.
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hatrack Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-23-08 01:35 PM
Response to Original message
3. Maybe Katherine Harris can order another study of magic water treatments for trees
Edited on Wed Jul-23-08 01:37 PM by hatrack
After all, it worked so well the first time, back when she was Secy. of State and spent taxpayer dollars on "Kabbalic Healing Water" to fight citrus canker.

No, I am not making this up.

Florida's citrus crop contributes billions of dollars to the state's economy, so when that industry is threatened, anything that might help is considered. Back in 2001, when citrus canker was blighting the crop and threatening to reduce that vital source of revenue, an interesting if not quite scientific alternative was considered.

Katherine Harris, then Florida's secretary of state and now a member of the U.S. House of Representatives ordered a study in which, according to an article by Jim Stratton in the Orlando Sentinel, "researchers worked with a rabbi and a cardiologist to test Celestial Drops,' promoted as a canker inhibitor because of its improved fractal design,' infinite levels of order,' and high energy and low entropy.'"

The study determined that the product tested was, basically, water that had apparently been blessed according to the principles of Kabbalic mysticism, "chang its molecular structure and imbu it with supernatural healing powers."


The Florida state government is frequently bombarded with new supposed cures and preventatives. Most of them are not tested by the state with government funds. But in this one case, at least, it appears that an exception was made: Six months were spent establishing testing protocols and, finally, testing Celestial Drops. In a letter to the state government, Wayne Dixon, the head of Florida's Bureau of Entomology, Nematology and Plant Pathology, reported that the "product is a hoax and not based on any credible known science." He added, "I wish to maintain our standing in the scientific community and not allow to use our hard-earned credibility" to promote their product.

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phantom power Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-23-08 05:11 PM
Response to Reply #3
5. please kill me.
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hatrack Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jul-24-08 08:41 AM
Response to Reply #5
6. Hey, it's America, where Congressional doctors diagnose via videotape . . .
And where the hottest-selling book tells people that the best way to achieve financial success is to wish for it.
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XemaSab Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-23-08 05:10 PM
Response to Original message
4. Aww, that sucks
We painted the trim on our house "Sabal Palm" in honor of this noble tree.

I hope they can figure it out and hold off the damage.

Meanwhile, here in California, I'm feeling like going to Florida last year was a good call. "See it before it's gone" and all that. :(
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Zorro Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jul-24-08 09:17 AM
Response to Original message
7. I didn't think anything could kill it
They grow like weeds around my Florida home.
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