Bacteria threatens Bay Area palm trees

- Browning leaves on palm trees across Tampa Bay are becoming more common.

Arborists say it's caused by a bacteria known as Texas Phoenix Palm Decline or TPPD.

"When a tree is infected by TPPD, it's drastic. Instead of just the lower 10-15% of the palm fronds turning brown, it's the lower half," said Lee Claxton, a certified arborist.

TPPD is caused by insects sucking at the leaves of the palm tree.

"It degrades the vascular system of the tree, and the whole system kind of shuts down and collapses, so no nutrients can get to the palm fronds," explained Claxton.

While most of Tampa Bay is seeing signs of the TPPD infection, Hillsborough and Manatee Counties have been hit the worst, with thousands of trees falling victim.

Members of the Phoenix Palm family are the most susceptible to TPPD. Trees such as the Canary Island Date Palm are dying in large numbers. The trees are typically chopped down once they die.

According to Tampa Parks and Recreation officials, it can cost $5,000-$10,000 to replace one Phoenix Palm. They have stopped using palms from the Phoenix family at local facilities.

Currently, there is no cure for TPPD, just an antibiotic that is injected into the tree.

"The best cure is prevention.  If you have a high risk palm, it should be inspected and treated," said Claxton.

Trees that are already sick are less likely to respond to the antibiotic.

Experts recommend planting trees that are believed to be immune to TPPD, such as the Royal Palm and Queen Palm.

For a list of other resistant palms, visit or contact a local arborist for treatment advice.

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