Faro council is planning to replace the city’s palm trees, many of which have been killed by Red Palm Weevils which have been allowed to spread due to a lack of planned chemical spraying.
The mayor want the palm trees replaced by coconut palms and other resistant species so that Faro-s public areas can retain some amount of exotic greenery.
The Praça de Tânger was the first to get coconut palms as part of an earlier unrelated project and mayor Rogério Bacalhau believes that this introduction ran successfully. As the coconut palms adapted so well his team are studying the possibility of using coconut palms for the other green spaces in the city where the dead palms have left gaps.
"Our goal is, over time, to replant the squares with coconut palm trees and other species of tree," said the mayor, admitting that this is a long term project as hundreds of palm trees have died across the Faro council area.
Due a lack of care and treatment there are dead and dying palms across the Algarve, a saddening site and a testament to the Algarve councils' complete indifference, preferring to let trees die in their thousands rather than effectively to care for them.
Faro's announcement today that it is to replant is somewhat ironic as it was the council's lack of care under former mayor Macario Correia that has led to this situation.
In the past, councils have moaned that there is not enough money to afford the chemical treatment needed to kill the Red Palm Weevils (Rhynchophorus ferrugineus) but there seems now to be a budget in Faro to replace these fully grown but dead specimens with more palms, albeit of a different variety.
Preventive treatment with chemicals costs around €20 a month, depending on the size of the palm tree and trees that already have signs of weevil attack often have been saved.
Faro council declined to have a stab at the costs involved to pay for its transplant plans but said that the cost of removing the dead trees has cost €42,000 between 2009 and 2014.
The council says it has been using the chemical treatment and spent €10,000, but in fact this was only in the final months of 2008 and in 2009 since which the trees have been left to the ravages of the invasive weevil.
The municipality has appealed to individuals on whose property infected palm trees stand, for them to use chemical treatment or, if they are too late, to remove the dead trees to prevent the bugs spreading to healthy trees nearby.
This tactic is destined to fail and the council knows that it is perfectly entitled to treat trees on private ground if the weevils threaten the health of nearby publicly owned trees.
Some benefit has come of the gaps left by the removal of dead palms.
Along the Avenida Calouste Gulbenkian in Faro, in the speces where palm trees used to grow, now sit art installations, a project set up by the Associação Internacional de Arte Peace and Art Society (PAS) whose HQ is in Faro.
Comment from Mr James Watson:
Faro council's plan would appear to be a little short sited. As far as I know there is no resistant palm tree to red palm weevil.
It has gone for the date palms and related canary island palms (Phoenix dactilifera and P.canariensis) first out of preference.
Once they have gone it will go for all the others.
I think everyone involved in planning the Algarve's landscape needs to rethink their strategy to more sustainable tree species.
I think we need to think more about Italian cypress,jacaranda, tipuana tipu (the yellow flowered tree that lines Quarteira's high street and makes it look like Nairobi). There are many more to choose from. Unfortunately nothing that will make the Algarve look so tropical as the big palm trees.
Some big palms can be kept alive but they need to be in prominent places or have patrons willing to maintain the chemical treatments for a long time to come. One day maybe the red palm weevil will die out due to a lack of food. I doubt in my lifetime.
What is quite interesting is how this big weevil got here in the first place. It doesn't have a massive flying range.
Could it be due to all those imported date palms from North Africa? North African date palm plantations have been struggling with this problem for many years.
It is a shame that the plant health authorities didn't check that they were clean and check the phytosanitary certificates,assuming they had one.
The Algarve business man involved in importing and selling so many date palms to Spain and Portugal did very well from it but to the detriment of not only the Algarve landscape but the Spanish mediterrenean coastal landscape as well.
That really ought to be considered an avoidable man made natural disaster.
The article below was published in algarvedailynews in January 2012
Saving Algarve Palms
- Written by Natasha Donn, Algarve 123, January 2012
In the maelstrom of the crisis, the small creamy coloured grub decimating the region’s palm trees is often ignored. Householders desperate to stretch purse strings come to the conclusion that Red Palm Weevil (RPW) is unstoppable, and so do nothing. What they don’t realise is that this way they can end up with a big bill - as when the tree dies it will need to be cut down and disposed of.
This week we talk to Pedro Seromenho, a garden expert in the Western Algarve who has made tackling RPW his business.
Is this bug unstoppable?
Pedro Seromenho: Of course it isn’t! Trees can be kept free of the bug for very little cost. The trick is to treat them regularly – and that’s where people start to lose enthusiasm. They think prevention will be too expensive. But the alternative can be much worse – and very sad. Dead palm trees look horrible, and if you’re renting a property out, or in business, they do nothing to attract clients - so they need removing, and that can involve a lot of money.
Depending on the size of the tree, it can cost hundreds of euros to cut one down and adequately dispose of it.
Is there a law obliging householders to treat their trees, or cut dead ones down?
That’s the problem: there isn’t. If there were the disease would never have spread in the way it has. For the moment, municipalities are simply encouraged to do their bit to make people aware of the dangers of not treating trees, and not properly disposing of them – but this isn’t really very effective. If a dead tree is a danger to the public – falling fronds can do incredible damage to people and property – people can call in the authorities, and then the authorities can force the owner of the tree to take action. But as you can imagine, all this is very long-winded and does nothing to stop the bug spreading, which it continues to do like wildfire.
So what’s the answer?
Treating trees! Prevention costs around €20 a month, depending on the size of the palm. Young trees cost even less. And if people don’t go in for prevention, treating diseased trees is still an option. It’s incredible to see how many bounce back and return to perfect health.
Is it just a question of chemicals, or do diseased trees require surgery?
Chemicals, or the biological approach with nematodes, will not sort out a diseased tree on their own. You need to get to where the problem is and dig right down. It’s the part I enjoy! I get a real buzz from digging out all the grubs and beetles! The noise they make – the smell, it can be horrendous, but there’s something so wonderfully satisfying in saving a tree. It’s a good feeling! I have clients who love their palms.
One particular lady near Lagos called me for her “baby”, as she called this tree, and it really was almost too late. That’s the trouble with this pest – you often don’t realise your tree is infected until it’s almost too late. Anyway, this palm needed radical surgery. I really wasn’t sure it would recover - but within a week of doing the surgery, I could see tiny green shoots growing out of the dead material and the lady herself said she could feel the tree would survive. It has! It still looks a little funny, but it’s definitely alive – and that’s what this is all about. Trying to save these beautiful trees.
The argument that they’re not indigenous to the Algarve and therefore expendable is not good enough, as palms have become a symbol of the region and they make properties look wonderful. An old farm with a 100-year-old palm looks impressive. An old farm with a dead 100-year-old palm just looks a mess…
I really don't understand it!
Interesting. Lagos camara told me that I would be fined €3,000 if I didn't remove my infected tree. Needless to say I had it taken down as an act of civic responsibility, not as a result of their bullying.