This year, we have had one of the most brutually cold winters on record. While we are much warmer than other places it has been one of the longest, coldest winters I can ever remember. My dad, who also grew up in South Florida, agrees that he can't remember when it was this cold for this long.
Last week, one of Jupiter's most stately clusters of coconut palms was showing tremendous damage to the fronds. I have admired these palms for years due to their height and majestic beauty so I was sad to see such damage (although the trees in my yard are showing this damage as well). I knew these trees were being innoculated for Lethal Yellowing (which is almost competely contained) and have looked great because of this treatment for years so I was puzzled. I studied the trees and then continued to Dubois Park where Palm Beach County has installed dozens of palms. What I found was the ground covered with dead fronds and the County trimming more off the trees. I know these lower fronds are important to the proper health of the trees so dropping them is certainly a cause for concern. However, we usually see cold damage only after the weather warms up. My sons were saying our garden came through the cold OK, but I told them you won't see the damage until it warms up. Now that it has warmed up...some, all the tropical plants in my yard are either completely defoliated or killed back sharply. Anyway, back to the palms.
In the early 90's, I was fortunate to cross paths with and become a business acquaintance of Richard Maxwell, owner of King Tree Service in West Palm Beach. From the time I met him, I was impressed with his genuine concern for the health of trees, commitment to doing the right thing, integrity with clients and willingness to share information for the good of all and the trees. He is probably one of the leading authorities on Lethal Yellowing and has been for years. Both Jupiter Island and Lost Tree Village (in North Palm Beach) have employed him for years to help protect these beautiful palms with fantastic results.
So, we discussed the trees posted in the blog last week. Fortunately for all of us here in Jupiter, Tequesta and Jupiter Island this is not a lethal yellowing issue as I mistakenly thought. These are victims of the severe cold. He was aware of these particular trees (as he is aware of most of the great trees in the area) and told me of the over 10,000 trees they protect on Jupiter Island only 3 have been lost to the disease in the last several years. Tetracycline is still the best protection available to protect the palms. This is great news!
When I was growing up in Miami, trees like those mentioned were everywhere but within a few short years had been nearly wiped out. We are lucky to have this antibiotic available.
While talking with Richard, he mentioned another growing (no pun intended) problem on the West Coast of Florida call TPPD, or Texas Phoenix Palm Decline which has spread from Texas. One of the issues with this disease is that it effects our native Sabal Palm. Usually, native plants are resistant to localized threats, but when problems come from afar (like the Burmese Python problem) in the Everglades, its hard to stop them or even arrest the spread.
In the movie "A Few Good Men", Jack Nicholson says to Tom Cruise something to the effect of "You can sleep well at night because guys like me are guarding you". If you are a Homeowner's Association, single property owner or Town Manager and have coconut palms, you can sleep well at night if you let King Tree Service guard your trees.
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