Live Oak —
For many Christmas seasons, local residents have made their way to Coliseum Avenue in Live Oak to admire the beautiful cedar tree decked with ornaments and lights, and even an appearance from Santa Claus. This year, however, the Christmas tree is gone and was replaced with a smaller tree due to a disease.
According to Senior Forester Brian Cobble, a call was initiated by a neighboring home owner, Pat Arnett, who noticed there was something wrong and requested for the tree to be examined. Arnett had decorated the tree for over 20 years. Last month, an inspection was performed and the tree was diagnosed with a contagious disease known as Cercosporidium Blight. The tree was cut down Thursday, Nov. 29 by the city of Live Oak since it was in their right-of-way.
Symptoms of the disease could be observed in the initial infected needles of the lower twigs and branches that were closest to the main stem. The needles of the tree, which are typically green, turned rusty brown. In most cases, the disease starts at the bottom and works its way up the tree.
The disease can be treated be with chemical controls. It can be reduced by limiting overhead irrigation to early morning hours. Washing contaminated clothing and decontaminating hands with hand soap after handling infected plants will reduce chances of it spreading. Using fungicides can help cure the disease or simply cut the tree down.
“In severe cases, it will more than likely kill the whole tree,” Cobble said. Families that reside down Coliseum and Sandra Avenues gathered at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church Dec. 3 to plan and organize the Christmas festivities that adorn their avenues each year. Each household was asked to contribute $10 to cover the costs of decorations and photographs of children with Santa. Folks can visit with Santa on Dec. 14 from 6-8 p.m. Coliseum and Sandra Avenues is just off 11th Street, across from the Suwannee County Coliseum.
The front lawn of nearly every house on the avenues is usually filled with Christmas cheer, and the roadside will be filled with lanterns. Volunteers usually decorate the enormous cedar tree that sat at the end of Coliseum Avenue, in preparation for Santa’s visit.
Although the tree was cut down, Christmas on Coliseum Avenue is saved, in the form of a small cedar tree.