A navel orange tree near downtown Riverside that is the city’s foundational citrus-bearing tree is receiving protective treatment to prevent its exposure to the deadly Asian citrus psyllid, officials said Friday.

The “parent navel orange tree,” which sits at the corner of Arlington and Magnolia avenues, surrounded by an iron fence, has revealed no signs of psyllid infestation, but according to city spokesman Phil Pitchford, out of an abundance of caution, groundskeepers removed a Marsh grapefruit tree and another navel dating from the 1940s that were adjacent to the landmark tree.

Pitchford said UC Riverside plant pathology experts, along with scientists from the California Citrus Research Board and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, recommended the removals and were monitoring the tree to ensure its preservation.

The city placed a protective blanket over the tree a year ago to reduce the chances of psyllid habitation. However, that cover tattered amid high winds and has since been taken down.

On the experts’ recommendation, the city will install a custom-made insect screen to ward off pests, Pitchford said.

The parent navel, shipped to Riverside in 1873, is a California Historic Landmark.

Psyllids have inflicted damage on several citrus trees on the east end of the city, and according to the USDA, infestations have been identified in numerous locations in northwest and southwest Riverside County.

Psyllids host virulent bacteria that cause Huanglongbing, better known as citrus greening disease, which destroys plants’ vascular systems. The finger-tip size, moth-like insects made their U.S. debut in Florida nearly 20 years ago.

Greening disease rampaged throughout the Sunshine State in 2005 and has inflicted an estimated $3 billion damage to crops there, according to a study published by the University of Florida.

Psyllids originate in tropical and subtropical regions. They first appeared in California in 2008 and have been trapped in citrus-growing areas throughout the Inland Empire.

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