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Talk of downtown St. Augustine: Trimming of palm trees outside fort

Arborist says 'hurricane cut' harmful to trees around Castillo de San Marcos

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – The grounds of the Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine looked a little different Tuesday after crews trimmed up the palm trees surrounding the historic fort. 

The way the trees were trimmed has gained some negative attention.

“You’re supposed to make them high and tight, but not like that," visitor Nick Somerville told News4Jax. 

The palm trees dotting the landscape around the National Monument look a bit less leafy, with fewer fronds.

“It’s a bit extreme," said a woman visiting the fort. "But they’re going to come back, so it saves the city money just cutting it. It’s like getting a short haircut. You don’t have to go as often.”

But experts worry that the trees may not be so lucky.

The trim given to the palms is known as a “hurricane cut.” It leaves only the top fronds of the trees,  with the goal of reducing wind resistance and, therefore, cutting down on storm debris.

But board certified arborist Danny Lippi said that type of cut only harms the trees.

“The trees, for the next 12 months, (are) going to be in a state of stress and nutrient deficiencies. So now, it’s susceptible to lethal palmetto weevils. It’s susceptible to fungal diseases like Ganoderma zonatum."

The cut can be so bad for the palms that Lippi pointed out it’s illegal in several parts of the state.

He said whoever trimmed the palm trees probably wasn't aware of the dangers and thought it would be beneficial.

Based on looks alone, many visitors said, it shouldn't happen again.

“I think they need someone else to do their trees," Somerville said. 

News4Jax reached out to the Castillo National Park Service to find out who trimmed the trees, and if  it's aware of a potential issue, but has not heard back.