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Fla. city just can't grow Christmas trees

UPI News Service, 09/18/2006 

The eastern Florida city of Port St. Lucie has had eight years of bad luck trying to grow cypress Christmas trees in front of City Hall and might just give up.

John Dunton, a public works supervisor who oversees the city's trees, told the Palm Beach (Fla.) Post he's baffled as to why seven of the trees the city decorates with lights each year before Christmas keep turning brown and dying.

Since 2001, he has closely monitored the watering schedule, pumped extra nutrients into the ground, removed buried construction debris and had the soil tested.

Dunton sent samples of the latest dead tree's limb and bark to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which said "drought stress" had allowed a fungal canker to invade the plant, the report said.

However, Scott Aker, a horticulturist with the U.S. National Arboretum in Washington, said he suspects poor-draining soil is the culprit behind the tree deaths.

Aker told the Post if the city is unwilling to correct the drainage problem, it could plant a bald cypress tree, although he acknowledged they lose their needles in winter and look nothing like a Christmas tree.

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Copyright 2006 by United Press International

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