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Pinellas Park palms aren't sitting pretty

The Medjool palms on Park Boulevard between 66th Street and U.S. 19 are suffering the natural adjustment of being uprooted and moved to a new place, most tree experts told Pinellas Park officials.

EDMUND D. FOUNTAIN | Times

The Medjool palms on Park Boulevard between 66th Street and U.S. 19 are suffering the natural adjustment of being uprooted and moved to a new place, most tree experts told Pinellas Park officials.

PINELLAS PARK — The expensive palm trees from Arizona that city officials bought to spiff up Park Boulevard are suffering in Florida's humid climate.

Apparently, they're in shock. At least that's what some tree experts have told Pinellas Park officials.

"The fronds are brown and drooping," Pinellas Park spokesman Tim Caddell said, but "I don't think any have fallen off into traffic."

Caddell said he's unsure how many of the 14 palms, which extend for a few blocks east from 66th Street N, are unhappy.

"I think it's a lot of them," Caddell said.

The easternmost Medjool is so scraggly that the state Department of Transportation has refused to accept it. The DOT provided grant money for the beautification project and must sign off on it.

The city has asked several local experts to look at the palms to see why some don't seem to be thriving. Most said the palms are suffering the natural adjustment of being uprooted and moved to a new place. All plants undergo a certain amount of shock at that time, they said.

But at least one other expert blamed Florida's climate.

The Medjool date palm, or Phoenix dactilyfera, originated in the arid Middle East, where its sugary fruit was a favorite of the local royalty. The palms were later transplanted to Arizona, with its equally arid climate. The Medjools sometimes have trouble adapting to Florida's humid climate. Pinellas Park's Medjools have also been subjected to a rainy season since being planted.

"It might make them homesick" for dry climes, Caddell said jokingly. He added that it's hard to raise Medjools in Florida, but once they've grown up, they can do quite well. That has been true of Medjools the city planted years ago on the eastern end of Park at the Home Depot.

The city isn't worried if the Medjools do badly because the $89,040 price tag — or $6,360 per tree — came with a warranty that requires the contractor to care for the trees for the first year.

The warranty also requires the contractor to replace them "if anything happens to them — they die, or anything," Caddell said.

Pinellas Park, he said, has placed the contractor on notice that the Medjools seem to be unhappy. The contractor has lopped off the dead fronds.

Pinellas Park palms aren't sitting pretty 08/16/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 19, 2008 11:43am]
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