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Palm Tree Fungal Diseases

Knowing the different palm tree fungal diseases, symptoms and treatments are an important part of keeping your tropical paradise healthy and happy.  

There a few important ones you'll need to to know how to watch for.

Ganoderma Butt Rot

The fungal disease known as ganoderma butt rot can attack every kind of palm. It is a hard one to spot if you don’t know what to look for. Your tree will more than likely look totally healthy right up to its death. 

A key factor to watch for is a spongy type of growth, whitish in color growing at or near the base of the palm, often called the butt of the tree. It will almost look like an expanded marshmallow.

This growth is just the beginning sign. This palm tree fungal disease feeds on the wood inside the palm, so it really kills it from the inside out.  It makes the remaining wood rot and turns it into a spongy texture.

The mature growth will look sort of like a sea shell, have stripes and be brownish in color. The growth is called a conk and once mature, it will break open to spread the fungus spores by way of water and air.

Then any other palm tree in a fairly large area could be affected.  If you spot a growth, remove it immediately.  Wrap it in an airtight bag or container and dispose of it. Unfortunately the tree it came from may have to be destroyed also to prevent the spread of the fungus to others in the area.

ganoderma butt rot both mature and immature conks attached to palm tree trunkboth mature and immature conks attached

Both photos by: Monica Elliott, University of Florida,  creative commons photo license

palm suffering from ganoderma butt rotPalm suffering from ganoderma butt rot

This fungus, as with many others, will live in the soil for quite some time. Best practice is not to plant any other palm tree in the same spot. If you do it is likely to develop the same disease all over again.

Leaf Spot Fungus

There are a couple different palm tree fungal diseases that will attack the palms leaves.  They are know now as a leaf spot fungus.

Younger palms or a tree that is stressed by inadequate drainage are at a much higher risk of infection than a mature healthy one.

The symptoms of these fungi are the developing of spots on the leaves, as you may have already guessed.  They will range in color from yellow to brown or black depending on which type your palm has.

Palm leaf showing 2 different leaf spot fungi typesPalm leaf showing 2 different leaf spot fungi types

Monica Elliott, University of Florida,

creative commons photo license

The treatment for all are about the same, and which type you may have depends a lot on which area of the world you are from.

Different ones are more prominent in some areas than others.

Best cure is to fix the drainage problem first so your palm isn't getting too much water in the root area. Then treat the leaves with a fungicide from your local nursery.

Once treated and drainage addressed the fungus shouldn't return.

Bud Rot

This palm tree fungal disease usually hits in wet, warm weather. It lives in the soil and likes to strike during these conditions. If your climate is like this anytime, not just during the summer, best to keep an eye out for this one.

You’ll notice the new leaf has a brownie, yellowish color to it before it even unrolls. It won’t look healthy and will likely wilt before or just after it unrolls. This fungus attacks the new leaf first, or bud, causing it to rot then moves to the next newest ones discoloring and rotting them.

Treat with a fungicide when you first notice any signs.

Ask your local nursery which one is best and drench the bud, or new growth in it. It may take a few applications to kill all the fungus.

coconut palms suffering from bud rotcoconut palms suffering from bud rot

Florida Division of Plant Industry Archive, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services,

Creative commons license

If the new leaf spear pulls out easily it may be too late to save the tree. It will depend just how deep the fungus has gone into the bud.

If the next new developing leaves are still green inside the heart and treated early enough it may bounce back.

Sooty Mold is a Palm Tree Fungal Disease

We learned on the page about palm tree pests, that this palm tree fungal disease likes to feed on the honeydew that is produced by a few sucking insects like aphids, or mealy bugs.

The sucking insects eat your palm's leaves then excrete the honeydew this fungus likes to eat. 

This one is easy to spot because it leaves a black colored, powder like substance on the leaves.

Treatment begins with getting rid of or a better control of the insects that produce its food source (the honeydew).  

After treating for these sucking insects, you should be able to wash the powder off your palm quite easily.

palm tree fungicide

The mold itself is not feeding or attacking the leaves itself, but it doesn’t have the greatest healthiest look on the leaves.

I would think that it may block some of the necessary sunlight and hinder the leaves absorption of the nutrients the tree gets from the air depending on just how many of the plants leaves are affected.

This is a few of the palm tree fungal diseases most commonly found. There are more with some of the same kind of symptoms and treatments that are similar to the ones listed.

More on Problems Palms can Face

  • Palm Tree Pests Palm tree pests mainly consist of insects. I’ll go through each bug by name, what the symptoms of infestation look like and how to treat once diagnosed.
  • Palm Tree Bacterial Disease Palm tree bacterial diseases include 3 that are extremely deadly to many different kinds of palms. Fusarium wilt, TPPD and lethal yellowing.
  • Mineral Deficiency in Palms Yellowing is an indication of mineral deficiency in palms. Where and how that yellow appears is a determining factor for which mineral it is.

I'm Darla the creator of Palm Tree Passion.

I hope you have enjoyed your visit.

Creator of Palm Tree PassionDarla

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