Disease Stalks Florida's Palms

State worries it lacks resources to identify, combat pathogen
By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 23, 2008 5:10 PM CDT
Sabal palm trees are shown Wednesday, July 23, 2008 in Miami.    (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
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(Newser) – A mystery disease is eating away at the sabal palm, Florida’s state tree, and scientists say the prospects of successfully fighting the disease are slim. The AP reports that an increasing number of the trees, which can grow up to 50 feet tall, have suffered collapsed canopies. "There's going to be fewer palms,” one state pathologist said.

Scientists face two difficulties in combating the tree-killer: They must first identify the disease, and then identify its insect vector. Even after that, stopping the insects could take resources the state doesn’t have, especially as the economic downturn has slowed funds to the main agricultural science center at the University of Florida, which is researching the pathogen.