What’s in news?
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.
- Florida’s official state tree — the tall, broad-leafed sabal palm was affected by a disease which make the nurseries, businesses, and homeowners are taking a financial hit as they scrap infected palms.
- The disease known as lethal bronzing, spread by a plant-hopping insect, about the size of a grain of rice, is the source of a deadly bacterial disease that is killing the state’s iconic palm trees.
- It 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.
- Some preventive measures can be taken, but once a tree is infected, there is no chance for recovery. Uprooting the tree is the only practical solution.
- Lethal bronzing is a bacterial disease that’s spread via treehopper.
- Lethal bronzing (LB) disease was discovered in Florida in 2006 and is caused by a phytoplasma—a type of bacteria that lacks a cell wall and cannot be cultured with artificial media.
- The disease’s first appearance in the Sunshine State was in Tampa in 2006, and it’s now found from the Keys in the south to Jacksonville in the north.
- There are many other treehoppers, but this specific species injects the bacteria through its saliva as its sucks sap out of the palm trees’ leaves.
- Originated in Mexico, also is found in parts of Texas and throughout the Caribbean.
How it will get affected?
- Once inside a tree, the bacteria migrate to its base, multiplying until they clog the circulatory system — much like human arteries getting blocked by fat and cholesterol.
- The blockage makes it impossible for the tree’s cells to get sufficient nutrients and sugars, starving them. As an infected tree dies, its fronds and central spear leaf transform from green to a tell-tale shade of bronze as it succumbs in about six months.
- The disease spread when winds blew infected bugs to new territories or they hitched rides on vehicles.
- The disease doesn’t infect humans or animals.
Links to note: