Thursday, July 12, 2018

City of Lake Worth Tree Board meeting today, 5:30, at the City Hall Annex.

In attendance today will be Mark Stivers, AICP, from the Dept. of Sustainability, the agenda item under “New Business” is the topic of “Landscape Regulation Ordinance”. This meeting is open to the public and public comment is limited to five (5) minutes.

Please note: One or more members of any volunteer board or member of the Lake Worth City Commission may show up and participate.

About the Tree Board:

The Tree Board, “establishes policy and provides standards within the City Landscape Ordinance for tree preservation. Policy includes educational materials (proper planting, pruning, and insect and disease control), permit guidelines, and City tree sale program.” Members serve 3 year terms.

The staff liaison for the Tree Board is Mr. Dave McGrew from the Parks Department and you can contact him for additional information at 561-586-1677 or by email:

Let’s revisit the topic of Australian Pines,
a particularly nasty and invasive tree.

Last month at the Lake Worth Library on the topic of “Preparing Your Yard and Community for Storms” was the very well attended event held every year by the Tree Board. The featured speaker this year was Laurie Albrecht, an environmental horticulturist for Palm Beach County.

If you would like more information about horticulture in Palm Beach County contact Albrecht, an Environmental Horticulture Extension Agent by clicking on this link, call 561-233-1748 or send an email to:

At last month’s event Richard Stowe, Chair of the Tree Board, indicated a major topic of discussion by Albrecht was how “native trees as a whole sustain less damage in storms than non-natives and cited specific native and non-native species and discussed their characteristics.” 

All very good information now that we are well into the long Hurricane Season. A big matter of concern on this blog has been Australian pines and that issue was addressed as well. Albrecht advised those pines are a prohibited species of tree and are a big problem in South Florida. Just “hat-racking” Australian pines is not enough; they need to be completely removed and Albrecht cited several reasons why.

Learn more about the Australian pine below, a tree introduced to South Florida, “to soak up the ‘swamps’ in Florida, stabilize canals, and hold beaches” and a tree that also happens to be highly flammable and displaces native animals and flora. Yes. It’s a nasty tree in our Palm Beach County habitat.

Let’s examine the risks and dangers of the invasive Australian Pine (Casuarina equisetifolia)

One particular Australian Pine was a major issue of concern at the Tree Board three years ago:
For more about this dangerous and toxic tree,
the following
information is from the
Florida Native Plant Society:

There are three species of Australian pine that have been imported into Florida for various purposes. They were widely planted to soak up the “swamps” in Florida, stabilize canals, and hold beaches. Unfortunately for Florida’s ecosystems, the “pines” accomplished all this and more — like seeding prolifically, growing five feet or more per year, producing dense shade, and emitting an herbicide that kills most any other plant that has the nerve to grow within their collective drip lines. [emphasis added] They have root nodules, like a legume, that fix nitrogen in poor soils for use as their own fertilizer, and they can tolerate saltiness. Between 1993 and 2005 the populations in Florida quadrupled. What a successful plant! 
     Why is their success so bad for Florida? Because the sterile monoculture they form has replaced the normal ecosystem of plants and animals that used to inhabit beaches and many other areas. Our loggerhead turtles, green sea turtles and American crocodiles have lost nesting sites on sandy beaches above the high tide line where “pines” have colonized. Farther inland the “pines” have displaced marsh rabbits, gopher tortoises, and many bird species that depend upon the native plants that were out-competed.
      Australian pines caused significant damage in our recent hurricanes. Fast growth makes their wood brittle and they break under pressure. The shallow root system makes them susceptible to uprooting, too. They are highly flammable. So even if you ignored the environmental problems with this tree, it’s not a good addition to a storm-wise or fire-wise landscape.

Hard to believe now (see image from Tree Board meeting above) but in June 2015 a City of Lake Worth resident tried to halt a very tall Australian pine from being removed that was too close to power lines (the City cited public safety concerns, e.g., tree is highly flammable) and also nearby is a main County road, Lake Osborne Drive, a road that must remain clear in emergencies.

In a hurricane or strong storm, when the Australian pine top shears off it’s likened to a “spear”. When too close to power/communication lines and roads (needed for emergency vehicles) you can understand the concern. This issue then went before the Tree Board:

The Tree Board defended the City and their position on the Australian pine. They also made recommendations going forward dealing with invasive trees that pose a danger to the public and environment.

Aerial view circa mid- to late-1970s (to the southeast)
of Lake Worth’s municipal golf course.
Australian pine was quite common a half Century ago in the City of Lake Worth.

The view above includes the roads North Palmway, North Lakeside and Golfview Drives. The foreground would be the area between 16th Ave. to 13th Ave. North. Notice the 90° turn south at 13th Ave North. And more information:

From the Florida Fish and Wildlife
Conservation Commission

Australian pine now occurs throughout South and Central Florida, the West Indies, Mexico, and elsewhere in tropical regions outside its native range.
     Because of its aggressive growth rate, never plant Australian pine trees. There are native trees that provide shade and do not harm the environment. Possession of Australian pine with the intent to sell or plant is illegal in Florida without a special permit.

Thank You for visiting today and hope you found this information helpful.