Apalachicola took advantage of this year’s Arbor Day to not only give away trees, but to give away free advice on how to address an increasingly problematic tree disease that has the potential to wreak havoc on palm trees in both Franklin and Gulf counties.
Lethal bronzing disease, an incurable disease first diagnosed in South Florida that kills a subset of palm trees, was first confirmed to be in Apalachicola in May 2022, after a trunk sample was sent to the University of Florida for testing, said Dennis Winterringer, chairman of the city’s tree committee.
The disease was found to be in a sabal palm on the highway adjacent to Mt. Zion Baptist Church at the corner of U.S. 98 and Eighth Street, just across the street from Chestnut Cemetery, now considered to be the epicenter of the outbreak.
“Since that time the tree committee and the city of Apalachicola have identified about 50 trees that exhibit the symptoms of the disease,” he said.
The city has since removed those located on city property, which are the rights-of-way along the highway and streets, Chestnut Street Cemetery, and city squares and parks, Winterringer said.
“Once a tree is infected, there’s no way to save it,” he said. “It is thought that injection of uninfected palm trees with the antibiotic oxytetracycline hydrochloride once a calendar year quarter for two years will fend off the disease.”
Lynn Wilder demonstrated at the Arbor Day gathering how homeowners and/or landscapers can drill into their palm trees and inject the antibiotic on a regular basis.
Rather than hold the Saturday morning, Jan. 27 event at the farmers market at the Mill Pond, as it has done in the past, the tree committee held the event at a more visible and accessible location, the parking lot of the Apalachicola Margaret Key Public Library.
“As a result of this new location and mild weather, we had given away all trees an hour and 45 minutes into the three-hour event,” Winterringer said.
Attending the event and answering questions were tree committee members Sam Berkheiser, Scott Davis, and Winterringer Emily Martin and Alex Skovronsky, from the Florida Forest Service; Florida A&M University Extension Service agents Sam Hand, Ed Duke, and Angel Forde; and city commissioner Anita Grove, the city’s liaison with the tree committee and a representative of the Apalachicola National Estuarine Reserve.
The event gave away 80 trees in three-gallon containers, including 14 longleaf pine; 12 pond cypress; 10 each of sweetbay magnolia, Southern live oak, sand live oak and common persimmon; and seven each of American elm and Southern magnolia.