DAVIE, Fla. — Florida’s iconic palm trees are under attack from a fatal disease that turns them to dried crisps in months, with no chance for recovery once they become ill.
Spread by a rice-sized, plant-hopping insect, lethal bronzing has gone from a small infestation on Florida’s Gulf Coast to a nearly statewide problem in just over a decade. Tens of thousands of palm trees have died from the bacterial disease, and the pace of its spread is increasing, adding to environmental woes of a state already struggling to save its other arboreal icon, citrus trees, from two other diseases.
Florida’s official state tree — the tall, broad-leafed sabal palm — is especially susceptible and Florida nurseries, businesses and homeowners are taking a financial hit as they scrap infected palms. Some preventive measures can be taken, but once infected, uprooting the tree is the only practical solution.