Diseases in Florida Palm Trees


To think of Florida without palms trees is unimaginable. Palm trees stand prominent in yards, line streets and highways, and dot Florida's many beaches. Unfortunately, palm trees are susceptible to many airborne and insect-transferred fungal diseases that can be damaging or deadly. Identifying the most common diseases will determine the best solution to keep your palm trees healthy.

Leaf Spots and Leaf Blight

  • All palm trees are susceptible to leaf spots and leaf blight. The diseases are caused by fungus. Leaf spots begin as small lesions on wet leaves that turn shades of yellow, gray, brown or black and may be surrounded by a halo or ring. This gives palm fronds an unattractive appearance but does not cause death. The best way to manage the disease is to keep the leaves dry and limit overhead watering. Fungicides can also be used in conjunction with water management. Do not water the palm from overhead, and protect it from rainfall. If this is not possible, water in the early morning hours before dawn. Increase the space between palms to help with air circulation.

Lethal Yellowing

  • Lethal yellowing is a systemic disease of palm trees caused by a phytoplasma transmitted by the planthopper. The disease is prevalent in the southern part of Florida. Symptoms include premature dropping of fruit and blackening of flowers, yellowing of the leaves and death of the bud, the growing point of the palm. According to the University of Florida IFAS, liquid injection of an antibiotic called oxytetracycline HCI into the tree's trunk is the best way to manage the disease.

Ganoderma Butt Rot

  • The fungus Ganoderma zonatum causes Ganoderma butt rot. The fungus rots the lower 4 to 5 feet of the palm trunk. Symptoms include wilting or decline of the general heath of the palm tree. The disease can be identified by finding a basidiocarp, or conk, a hard formation on the trunk attached to the lower section of the palm. There is no prevention. The palm tree must be removed, including the stump and roots. The fungus can live in the soil, so do not plant another palm tree in the same place.

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  • Photo Credit Palm tree image by Sergey Danilov from Fotolia.com
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