Diseases in Florida Palm Trees

With more than 2,500 variations, there is a palm tree for every climate and soil type in Florida. Selections of these palm variations can accommodate everything from dry, infertile soils to consistently moist areas in full shade. Palms range from small, single-trunked palms to large, multi-trunked palms that reach mature heights up to 100 feet. Though many types of palms grow throughout Florida, the palm diseases within the state are quite similar. Many of these diseases can be injurious, if not fatal, to the palm.

Fusarium Wilt

Fusarium wilt is a fungal disease that attacks the vascular system of the palm. This soil-borne disease infects the palm tree through its root system. Date and oil palms are especially susceptible to this disease. Infected palms experience desiccation, or drying out, which begins with the oldest fronds. Known as the "one-sided wilt," infected fronds will develop brown, discolored leaflets on one side of the frond while the other side remains a healthy, green color. If the disease progresses, the fronds will die. The fungal pathogen of fusarium wilt can thrive in the soil for years without a host and there is no cure for this disease. The University of Florida IFAS Extension explains that all palms should be pruned with sterile equipment that is sterilized between each cut as infected palms may take as long as 18 months to show symptoms of infection.

Ganoderma Butt Rot

Ganoderma butt rot is a fungal disease that is deadly to all palm variations in Florida. This wood-decaying disease travels by spores that are released from the conks of already infected palms and stumps. Infected palm trees experience discoloration and wilting of fronds which droop from the tree. The lower 4 to 5 feet of the trunk begins to rot and conks, or woody fungal formations, develop around the trunk. There is no cure for ganoderma butt rot and trees should be removed immediately upon the development of conks to prevent further spread throughout the area.

Leaf Spot

The University of Florida IFAS Extension explains that all Florida palm trees, especially young palms, are susceptible to leaf spot. The spores of this fungal disease are transported, not only by wind and train, but by insects and contaminated pruning equipment. The spores infect the fronds and initially cause tiny, water-soaked lesions. These lesions turn into discolored spots that are pronounced with yellow halos. The infected fronds deaden as the spotted areas decay. Leaf spot of palm can be controlled. Infected fronds should be pruned from the palm with sterile pruning shears that are sterilized between each cut. Fungicidal treatments are also effective in treating this disease when combined with pruning and water management. According to the University of Florida, palms should not be watered from overhead as this increases the spread of fungal spores.

Keywords: palm tree diseases, ganoderma butt rot, palm fusarium wilt

About this Author

Charmayne Smith is a business professional and freelance writer. She has worked in management for successful organizations since 1994. Smith draws on her business background to write articles, and her work has appeared in a variety of online outlets. She holds a degree in business from Cleveland State University.