Magazine article American Forests

Disease Attacking Florida's State Tree

Magazine article American Forests

Disease Attacking Florida's State Tree

Article excerpt

In addition to the diseases sweeping the state's citrus industry, Florida's trees now face a new threat. An unidentified disease has been slowly killing off populations of sabal palm (also known as cabbage palm), the official state tree. Scientists recently identified the disease through genetic sequencing: It seems that the Texas Phoenix palm decline, known more commonly as TPD, has made its way to the Sunshine state.

Part of what makes the disease such a threat is the difficulty in diagnosis. Its early symptoms can be easily confused with those caused by over-trimming or a shortage of nutrients. Its progression is slow and occurs from the inside out, so that the tree is destroyed gradually but quite completely. The disease begins with the loss of lower leaves in the canopy, followed later on by the death of the spear leaf, the youngest and still unfolded leaf. Eventually, the tree's canopy collapses entirely.

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The disease is transmitted through insects dubbed "plant hoppers," which suck the sap out of palm trees. …

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