The pindo palm, or Butia capitata, is a slow-growing, upright palm tree with a natural open-crown shape. Its blue-green to silver foliage grows from 18 to 36 inches in length. This evergreen produces showy, white spring flowers and produces a yellowish-orange, fleshy fruit that is very attractive to squirrels. The pindo palm is a cold-hardy tree that thrives easily in most well-drained locations and is resistant to most diseases. Excessive moisture and “wet feet” will cause the root system to deteriorate, however, and will increase the pindo palm’s susceptibility to disease.
Phytophthora is a fungal disease that results in rotting of the roots and buds of the palm. The fungus develops in the soil near the pindo palm during the very wet periods of the year. The disease is then transported via fungal spores that are moved by wind and rain during the rainy spring months. Phytophthora gains entry to the palm through its wounds. Infection results in the disintegration of buds and young fronds. Fronds will droop and develop a foul odor.
Young fronds are always adversely affected first. Mature fronds will slowly begin to brown, collapse and, eventually, fall. The University of Florida Extension recommends that severely infected trees be removed and properly discarded to prevent cross infection to surrounding trees. Fungicidal sprays are effective for treatment and control of the disease when identified promptly.
Diamond scale is a fungal disease that is primarily found in the coastal regions of California. Though the pindo palm is one of the most resistant palms, the pindo palm is susceptible to diamond scale when it is stressed and over-watered. Infected trees will develop dark, water-soaked spots. As the disease continues, these spots will turn to black, diamond-shaped fungal bodies. These fungal bodies will appear on the stalk and fronds of the pindo palm.
No fungicidal treatment exists for diamond scale. However, the disease can be avoided by maintaining a well-drained planting location for the palm. Avoid over-watering the palm and feed the palm regularly with a palm fertilizer that is high in nitrogen and potassium.
Pink rot, like many pindo palm diseases, is a fungal disease that preys on weak and distressed palms. Pindo palms are commonly susceptible when they are poorly drained and inappropriately fertilized. Spots will begin to appear on newly infected trees. Younger fronds will be infected first.
As the infection worsens, the fronds of the tree will experience wilt and rot; pink spore masses will develop along the trunk of the tree and, at times, on the fronds. The pindo palm will experience growth stunt and dieback which will eventually kill the tree, if left untreated. Pink rot can be successfully controlled with a scheduled combination of pruning and fungicidal spray treatments.