Florida Invaded by Texas Palm Decline

Florida Invaded by Texas Palm Decline
by Russ Frank

In the late 1970’s a new palm decline disease was discovered in the southern coastal region of Texas. Due to the type of palms it affected, it was called Texas Phoenix Palm Decline (TPPD), or just Texas Palm Decline (TPD).

Texas Phoenix Palm Decline is very similar to Lethal Yellowing (LY), a disease that has killed hundreds of thousands of palms in south Florida since the 1950’s. Researchers believe the disease is spread by an insect. These insects feed on sap of an infected then spread the disease from palm to palm as it continues to feed.

The west central region of Florida is where Texas Phoenix Palm Decline was discovered. It appears set to attack thousands of date palms – Canary Island date, edible date and wild date palms. These species are expensive, costing between $5,000 and $10,000 apiece.

Less expensive but much more numerous Queen palms can also be affected. This palm decline is also suspected of jumping to Sabal palms, a native palm and the Florida state tree. Texas Phoenix Palm Decline has been confirmed in Sarasota, Manatee, Hillsborough, Pinellas and Polk counties in west central Florida. This palm decline disease is likely to spread because palms are frequently bought, sold and moved throughout Florida.

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Symptoms of Texas Phoenix Palm Decline include browning of the lower fronds, death of the spear (the youngest unfolded frond), fronds dying prematurely, flowers and fruit dying prematurely, premature fruit drop and eventual death of the palm.

Many of these Texas Phoenix Palm Decline symptoms may also be caused by herbicide or insect damage, lightning damage, overpruning or nutritional deficiencies. It takes a good deal of expertise to sort these palm decline symptoms out.

If you suspect your palm has Texas Palm Decline, call a palm expert or certified arborist . If they agree that the palm decline symptoms may be present,, they will arrange to have a sample sent to a lab for confirmation. If the tests confirm Texas Phoenix Palm Decline disease, remove the palm as soon as possible. It’s in the community’s best interest to prevent further spread of this disease.

Infected palms may be saved from Texas Palm Decline and healthy palms can be protected with by program of antibiotic injections. Treatment may be accomplished with the antibiotic oxytetracycline Hcl injected every 4 months for the life of the palm. This treatment can protect healthy palms if Texas Phoenix Palm Decline is known to occur in the area. This treatment program may save infected palms if the spear leaf has not died.

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