Palm trees can be protected from lethal bronzing disease

There may be new hope for Bay Area palm trees at risk for lethal bronzing disease. It can kill certain varieties of palm trees, and it can happen quickly, but scientists believe they may be able to inoculate trees against the disease.

Along Bayshore Boulevard in Tampa, the city's Urban Forestry Manager Eric Muecke ​​​​pointed out two palms dying from the disease.

"When it comes to being able to identify the disease, we see an overall bronzing of all of the leaves on the tree, not a yellowing, it's a bronzing," said Muecke.

He says palm trees in the Phoenix family can get the disease, including queen palms, sabal palms, and bismark palms. Scientists believe it came from Texas and was first seen in this area in 2006.

"The disease is actually a phytoplasma that is carried by a planthopper bug," said Muecke.

The bug moves from nearby turf to carry the disease to the palm tree and it doesn't take long to kill it.

"After it's about 10% affected there's nothing we can do to save it after that," says Muecke.

His team removes dead trees and keeps an eye on hundreds of palm trees on city property and right of ways.

"We monitor the palm trees, and we have an inoculation program where we treat approximately 300 trees at 24 sites around the city. 

Mueke says if you have susceptible palm trees on your property,  you can call a certified arborist to inoculate them against bronzing.