Palm Tree Diseases, Fungus & Pests

Palm Tree Diseases, Fungus & Pests

Learn How to Defend Your Florida Landscape Against Palm Tree Damage

If there’s something homeowners in Southwest Florida love, it’s sunny skies and sculpted landscapes. But as many of us have discovered, these landscape trees and plants can be vulnerable to a host of nasty insects, fungi, bacteria, and viruses.

Fear not!

By understanding the multiple types of diseases, fungus, and pests that can damage palm trees, homeowners can create a tree care plan to protect their Florida lawns.

Top Palm Tree Diseases, Pests & Deficiencies

From the statuesque Washingtonia palm tree to the elegant Canary Island Date, over 200 species of palm trees can thrive in the sunny climate we’re accustomed to in Florida.

The Lawn Care Services team at Catseye Pest Control cares about your landscape, and we would like to help you keep an eye on your landscape investment. Here’s a few of the conditions you should look for, and if the worst should happen, we’ll be here to help.

Rugose Spiraling Whitefly ​

A relative newcomer to the area, the invasive rugose spiraling whitefly is a lawn pest that first appeared in Dade County, Florida in 2009.

Since that time, the insect has become a serious concern. While this pest is most commonly found on palm trees, especially coconut palm trees, they are not exclusive to palms.

Susceptible plants include the black olive tree, gumbo-limbo trees, avocado trees, and mango trees, as well as many other species of ornamental plants and trees.

In the early stages of the infestation, spirals of eggs can be seen on the underside of the leaves. As the population grows it will drain nutrients from the host producing honeydew. This insect byproduct falls on the leaves and ground around the plant and fosters the growth of a black mold. The mold is commonly known as black sooty mold, which quickly becomes visually apparent.

Lethal Bronzing Disease

Lethal bronzing was first discovered in South Florida in 2006. While this disease is similar to the Lethal Yellowing bacteria, it is not identical.

Early stages are only detectable by a sudden death of any fruit or flowers currently on the tree. A pruned palm tree without the flower or fruit pods will not show this symptom.

As the disease advances, the lower limbs will suddenly brown and die. In the final stage, the “spike” or newest frond at the crown of the tree will collapse.

Unfortunately, these are the symptoms of multiple ornamental grasses and palm tree diseases. So, diagnosis should be performed by a trained professional and confirmed via laboratory testing.

Once the presence of the bacteria has been confirmed the tree must be removed immediately and destroyed before the infection can spread. The only means of management of this disease is through preventative antibacterial injection. There are 16 palm trees currently known to be affected, a few of which include: 

  • Bismarck Palm
  • Buccaneer Palm
  • Cabbage Palm
  • Canary Island Date Palm
  • Carpentaria Palm

Palm Weevil ​Damage

The largest weevil in North America, the palm weevil is native to Florida. The insect was once known to only affect damaged or dying trees. In recent years, however, it has​ ​become a danger to mature and healthy palm trees.

This palm tree bug was once primarily associated with the native Floridian cabbage palm. Now Bismarck palms, Canary Island date palms, and latania palms are all at risk. In addition, several other species of palm trees are susceptible to palm weevil damage, but only while immature or recently transplanted.

palm weevil damaged brown palm tree in a group of green palm trees

Early detection of activity is essential. The early stages of infestation will show as an odd drooping of the older fronds. Once the palm weevil progresses past this stage, death of the tree is almost certain.

In the final stage of palm weevil damage, the head of the palm tree will collapse. This is known as popping the head.

Nutrient Deficiencies ​in Soil

The Florida climate is ideal for palm tree species from around the world, unfortunately we have one disadvantage that can be overlooked and misunderstood by those unfamiliar with our environment.


Sand might feel great under your feet, but it is terrible as a soil for non-native plant life.

Making matters worse, foundations for new homes have been using what is commonly referred to as fill dirt for the past few decades.

Not only is this soil terrible in terms of nutritional value for plants and trees, it is almost always high in alkalinity which can drain nutrients from trees and prevent them from receiving certain vital nutrients necessary for their continued health and growth.

Nutrient deficiencies can build up over time and lead to stunted leaves and fronds, discoloration and yellowing, palm tree trunk damage, narrow trunk caliber, and can even lead to infection caused by palm tree fungus.

Severe deficiencies can cause extreme deformation of the crown, crownshaft collapse, trunk and frond necrosis, in addition to possibly losing the palm tree.

Stressed trees lacking nutrition are more susceptible to insect infestations as well.

Whether you are moving into a new home or have a well-established landscape, proper fertilization and lawn irrigation for your palm trees is essential to the landscape’s continued success.

Tree Care Program in Southwest Florida

Without a plan in place, an otherwise healthy and bug-free tree can quickly collapse and die. Often, the beginning signs of nutrient-deficient palms can go unnoticed. By the time the warning signs become obvious it’s too late for the tree.

At Catseye Pest Control, we have a team of trained horticulture professionals with years of experience ready to properly care for your trees.

Using state-of-the-art materials combined with tried and true methods and specially formulated nutrients, Catseye offers lawncare services that can give your Southwest Florida landscape and trees the longevity and beauty desired.

For more information about palm tree fungus, how we can protect your landscape, and for a free inspection, contact us today.

This article appeared first on Catseye Pest

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