City centre falling leaves a mystery
By DAVID MOASE
THE trees lining Harbour Drive are turning an attractive shade of yellow and beginning to cover the ground.
It is almost like a postcard-perfect autumn scene apart from two major problems ? it's still the middle of summer and ficus trees don't normally drop their leaves.
Something is making the leaves lose their normal glossy green shade and fall off in increasingly large numbers, and no-one is sure why.
Councillor Jenny Bonfield raised the issue at Thursday night's Coffs Harbour City Council meeting and speculated that it may have been too wet, too dry or that they had been poisoned.
"We can't assume if they have been poisoned that everyone likes them," she said.
The council general manager, Stephen Saw-tell, was yesterday keen to dismiss the idea the trees had been poisoned.
"Two years back there was a similar occurance and the trees recovered," he said.
Mr Sawtell said council's parks staff were trying to find the cause and that it was likely the problem was related to water, either too little during the hot summer or too much because of heavy rainfall.
"We'll be checking to make sure the trees' roots haven't blocked the drainage system," he said. "Another possibility is that there could be a fungus attacking the roots."
When the city centre was reopened to traffic about five years ago, the trees were planted in specially designed plastic tubs.
They are not watered by council staff.
Retired botanist Alec Floyd yesterday des-cribed the trees as very tough and ideally suited to the streetside location.