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AP Florida

Laurel wilt strikes hundreds of trees in Palm Harbor park

TBO.com
Published:   |   Updated: March 18, 2013 at 01:21 PM

Hundreds of trees in Palm Harbor's John Chesnut Park are infected with laurel wilt disease, Pinellas County officials said Tuesday.

Laurel wilt typically affects swamp bay and red bay laurels as well as avocado trees, officials with the county's Parks and Conservation Resources said in a news release. 

The incurable disease is caused by a fungus carried by a small beetle. The fungus interferes with a tree's vascular system and causes leaves to wilt and take on a reddish or purplish discoloration, eventually leading to the death of the tree. Leaves can stay on a dead tree for up to a year, officials said.

"Unfortunately, we'll just have to allow the disease to run its course in the park, and remove trees that become hazardous to park patrons," Steven Harper, of Pinellas' Environmental Division, said in the news release. 

John Chesnut Park is at 2200 East Lake Road S., on the southeast edge of Lake Tarpon.

A case was detected in the park about 16 months ago, and the tree was removed, officials said.  However, the infection spread and was expected to move to trees in nearby Brooker Creek Preserve in Tarpon Springs.

Homeowners with concerns about avocado or specimen trees should contact a certified arborist or horticulturists with the Pinellas County Extension Service.

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