Photo: Brian Bahder, UF/IFAS
“For over a decade, palm trees in Florida have been facing a plague with no cure…Lethal Bronzing Disease (LBD).

City Landscape Architect Cara Culliver said there have been no cases of the disease in Volusia County. The palms that were chosen for the project are Phoenix dactylifera ‘Medjool’ palms, which she said are less susceptible….

Don Spence, an associate professor of Biology at Bethune-Cookman University with a doctorate in plant pathology, likened the spread of LBD to malaria — just like mosquitos spread the disease in humans, insects spread LBD to different trees.

Plants infected with LBD don’t live long-term, Spence said. And while the disease has yet to be documented in Volusia, it doesn’t mean it never will be. Medjool palms, he said, are susceptible to the disease because they share the same Phoenix genus.

‘It’s just outside of our borders and it likely will be here in the near future,’ Spence said… Native vs. non-native

The planting of Medjool palm trees poses another question: Why not opt to plant native species?

The Medjool is native to the Atlantic Coast of Morocco, according to the GroundWorks website. Crape Myrtles originated in Asia.

Culliver said requirements from the Florida Department of Transportation play a big role in plant selection. All proposed trees and palms must have 8-foot trunk at installation to create for motor vehicle visibility. That limits what can be planted.

Cities are also bound to follow the FDOT Bold Landscape Standards, meaning they have to plant large mature palms or trees to create a bigger visual impact. The Medjool palms and Crape Myrtles abide by these requirements.

However, Culliver said that some native plants are used in medians across the state, including Coontie, Dwarf Yaupon, Holly, Muhly grass and sand cordgrass.

Spence said that while there are many native plants the city can use, the problem derives from maintaining grass in the medians. That can adversely impact the planted trees…”

— Jarleene Almenas, Ormond Beach Observer
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