Dozens of palms diseased; cost in tens of thousands
by Hala Ali Aryan, Staff Writer : Union-Tribune August 1, 2002
DEL MAR – The city will remove at least 10 and potentially dozens of palm trees along the coast during the next few years after finding that at least 25 are infected with a fatal fungal disease.
Five of the palms must be removed immediately because they are almost dead and another five must be removed within the next year. The crowns of dead palm trees could detach from the trunk and fall.
Removal of the trees is expected to cost the city tens of thousands of dollars.
"It’s a chunk of change for this city," said Del Mar Public Works Director David Scherer.
The small city’s annual budget totals $15 million.
The City Council at its meeting Monday is expected to authorize its staff to seek bids for removal of the first five trees, which is expected to cost about $35,000.
A landscaping consultant is working on a plan to replace the trees with three to four species of palms that are not susceptible to the disease, although replacement probably will not start for at least another year.
City officials started noticing in 1999 that several trees at Powerhouse Park were wilting. A horticulturist recommended a special feeding and maintenance program, but the trees did not improve. Another expert then recommended a fungal treatment.
Earlier this year, the county Department of Agriculture determined the trees were suffering from Fusarium wilt. The fungus attacks the tree’s vascular system, incapacitating its ability to convey food and water to its fronds. The green fronds turn brown and drop off.
Del Mar officials inspected 41 date palms along Coast Boulevard and seven Canary Island palms at Powerhouse Park. They found that 25 were infected at various stages, ranging from almost dead and needing to be removed right away to just beginning to show symptoms.
The city is conducting further tests on the rest to make sure they are not diseased.
The trees must be removed whole, including the root ball, to prevent the incurable disease from spreading. City officials said they hope to have the first five palms removed by early fall.
"We want to get them out before the winter storms," Scherer said.
In the 1980s, the city of San Diego removed hundreds of palms infected by Fusarium wilt.