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Disease killing Cabbage Palms

By Cindy Jo Ayers
It is just a matter of time before Lethal Bronzing Disease affects Cabbage Palm trees in Gilchrist County.
The University of Florida IFAS reports that currently Lethal Bronzing can be found in sixteen different species of palms including Sabal Palm also known as Cabbage Palms in Florida.
Lethal Bronzing was once known as Texas Phoenix Palm Decline and it was discovered in counties in the Tampa area in 2006 and since that time it has steadly overtaken the southern part of the state. In 2018 Lethal Bronzing was found in Alachua County.
The disease is caused by a phytoplasma which is a type of bacteria. The Phytoplasmas live in the part of the plant where the sap is transported. The Phytoplasmas are transmitted to palms by piercing-sucking insects that feed on the plant.
Leaves of the bottom layer will begin to turn brown and in about three months the leaves will be brown and dying all the way to the top. This Disease will kill the tree in a short time.
Cabbage trees have been a big part of the history of the state, not only is the Sabal Palm aka Cabbage Palm our state tree, but it has been a food source since the earliest pioneers first settled the state. Swamp Cabbage has been served with fried mullet for generations at family reunions and church dinners. The descendents of the pioneer Florida families still cook and eat swamp cabbage today. Hearts of Palm salad, which was first developed by the late Bessie Gibbs at the Island Hotel in Cedar Key, featured the raw palm heart from the cabbage palm.
It is recommended that infected trees be removed and destroyed.