No single cure for palm tree diseases

Published: July 26, 2019 6:03 PM EDT
Updated: July 26, 2019 10:11 PM EDT

Palm trees line roads in Southwest Florida. While they make for great scenery, they can also face their own problems.

Several diseases are out there right now that can put palm trees at risk, so we spoke to experts about when it’s time to completely get rid of a tree.

“In Florida, especially South Florida, there’s always something wrong with many palms,” said Stephen Brown, a horticulture agent with UF/IFAS Lee County Extension. “If it’s not nutritional, it may be disease. And, of course, many are healthy.”

Kiki Paul, the general manger at Riverland Nursery in Lee County, said one-in-the-same cures don’t exist for palm tree diseases.

“There’s a lot of different insects out there that attack palms,” Paul said. “But most of them are properly diagnosed, treatable. There’s only a few out there that aren’t treatable.”

One of the untreatable diseases is lethal bronzing, a bacterial disease that attacks the vascular system, of the tree. It’s spreading across Florida but hasn’t impacted Southwest Florida as much.

“Lethal bronzing is not the only deadly disease of palms,” Brown said. “We have lethal yellowing, which is related of course. We have fusarium wilt,; we have ganoderma; we have palmetto weevil, which is an insect, and I can go on and on.”

In cases like lethal bronzing and ganoderma, it’s best to remove the tree

“It’s their choice, but it would be at risk,” Paul said. “We don’t suggest putting another palm tree in that area.”

While it’s not necessarily simple to identify issues with a glance of a tree, some signs of illness may be deformity or coloring.

“Most of things here at Riverland, we like to diagnose on a case-by-case basis.” 

There will be a seminar about ornamental palm diseases and management at the North Fort Myers Recreation Center Friday, August 16.