Disease sickens Charlotte County palm trees

Customers showed Rebecca Copenhaver, owner of Becky’s Garden Shoppe, their dying majestic palms.

“The first one I thought got struck by lightning, just because it was so quick, but that wasn’t the case,” Copenhaver said. “So we took a cross-section of one of the least dead palm fronds, and I took it to Ralph Mitchell over at the extension service.”

Mitchell, a Charlotte County Horticulture Agent, let the customers know the plant tested positive for a disease called the Texas Phoenix Palm Decline or Lethal Bronzing.

“They confirmed that’s what it was,” Mitchell said. “It’s a disease carried by a vector, an insect of some type.”

Few people know about it, but Mitchell said inspectors are now on the lookout. There are systems you can spot too.

“If there’s any fruit on the palm it drops, suddenly. and then there’s a slow death of the lower fronds,” Mitchell said. “It turns sort of a reddish brown color, almost a bronzy color, and it begins to die from the bottom up.”

Mitchell said if you have any high-value palms, there’s a preventative treatment.

“They can use this therapeutic antibiotic treatment,” Mitchell said. “What happens is a hole is drilled in the but of the palm, the antibiotic is put in.”

But just like people, you have to continue the antibiotic regimen.

“So it’s a commitment … but it can be an investment to ensure it doesn’t get the Texas Phoenix Palm decline,” Mitchell said.

Experts say if you think your palm tree is sick, send pictures and information to the University of Florida “IFAS” extension offices in Charlotte, Collier DeSoto, Lee, and Sarasota counties.

For more information on the Palm Tree Growers Club, click here.

Find your local UF IFAS office to report your palm tree sickness here. 

Reporter:Anika Henanger
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