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Venice palm trees are dying

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Posted: Thursday, February 14, 2013 5:28 pm | Updated: 1:12 pm, Wed Jul 31, 2013.

The city of Venice says a fungus is killing decades old palm trees lining popular places around town.

They say right now, there's no cure for the Canary Palms.In fact, they're afraid to plant anything in their place.

Palm tree lined avenues like the one in Venice is what many who come expect to see. "You come down here and there is flowers and green and palms. It's all about the palms," says Kathy Childerson visiting from Illinois.

The Florida landscape is under threat. "In 15 years and we could lose them all." Some planted as far back as 1962 the city has already lost 21 of their 90 date palms in just the past four years. The latest just last week. The cause says Public Works Director John Veneziano is a fungus affectionately known as Ganoderma butt rot. "The Canary Island Date Palm are particularly susceptible to the fungus."

Veneziano says there is no way of knowing which of the decades old trees are being impacted until it's too late. "There is no real outside evidence that the tree is infected until it is pretty much lost."

"It would be a shame if we were to lose that." Many of the trees line downtown. Randy Etzkorn has owned the Venice Avenue Creamery formerly Bressler's for more than two decades. Merchants here are afraid if more die it will effect the look of the area. "You take the beauty for granted after awhile. When you hear you may start to lose it then you wake up and pay attention."

Work crews have been taking down the trees as soon as signs of stress are shown says Veneziano. "We need to remove it as quickly as possible to prevent the spread of any fungus spores."

According to researchers at the University of Florida 65 species of palms have been found to be susceptible to the fungus. So far no other types on city property have been impacted. None of the trees already taken down have been replaced because the roots and soil around them could still be contaminated. "If we want to replant a palm we wold have to dig out as much of the infected soil as possible and replace it with new soil. It is much more expensive."

Up to 20 times more expensive they say for likely a much smaller native replacement. "To get that look back it would take a long time," says Etzkorn.

City crews are monitoring the trees the best they can but as they said, at this point there is nothing they can do.

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