5 Sabal Palm Tree Diseases and When it’s Time for Removal

5 Sabal Palm Tree Diseases and When it’s Time for Removal

Did you know the beautiful sabal palm tree is the state tree of Florida? If you live in the southeastern United States, odds are you have some in your yard or neighborhood.

While the trees are lovely and a great addition to most southern landscapes, they are still susceptible to several diseases.

Protect your trees and get informed on these 5 diseases that can affect your sabal palm trees. Read on to learn how to recognize them, what you can do to treat them, and how to know when it’s simply time to remove the tree.

Sabal Palm Tree Diseases

Like most palm tree varieties, the sabal palm tree is especially susceptible to fungus. The unfortunate truth is that even if you purchase and plant perfectly healthy palms, they could still become infected if the soil you plant them in has had a previous fungal infected plant.

Not to worry, here’s a breakdown of the diseases.

1. Fusarium Wilt

You may have seen some palm trees where the older palms have turned down and begun to yellow. Little did you know this isn’t a “look” but actually an indication of a potentially disastrous fungal infection of the palm tree.

This disease is called fusarium wilt.

Essentially, what happens to trees that contract this infection is that the fungus, known as Fusarium oxysporum, starts to grow inside the water-gathering areas of the plant.

This means the palm cannot gather water as it needs and ceases to grow over time, and it eventually dies. Another symptom of this fungal disease is when the palms on a tree yellow and die rapidly and leave just a few palms sticking up straight.

Of course, with a lack of water supplied to the tree, those remaining vertical palms will also fall.

Because this nasty disease enters palm trees’ roots via water pulled up from the soil, it’s best to have a professional inspect the soil you’ll be planting in to make sure no fungus exists.

Sadly, once a sabal palm tree contracts this fungus, there is little to do but have the tree removed and the soil replaced.

2. Phytoplasma Bacteria

The sturdy sabal palm, often referred to as the “cabbage palm,” is also vulnerable to a certain bacteria called “phytoplasma.”

This disease can be harder to pinpoint in your palm trees as the symptoms are also those seen in trees that may simply be fertilized poorly or trimmed too much.

Phytoplasma infection causes the central leaf spear to die before any other leaves. It also produces an abnormal amount of dying palm fronds at the bottom canopy. These look brown and dry.

If you think your tree or trees may be infected with this pesky bacteria, you may not need to chop them. The University of Florida has put together a document to help you identify the disease and properly diagnose it.

However, odds are you will still need to contact a professional arborist to come and treat the palm. They can provide oxytetracycline injections to help heal the sick tree.

3. Butt Rot, or Ganoderma Butt Rot

Ganoderma butt rot is a newer variety of palm infection, so you may have a harder time finding information on it. However, the signs of this infection are easy to identify.

This is also caused by a fungal infection that enters the palm tree through a hole, scrape, or scratch near the base, or “butt,” of the tree. This tricky disease is nearly impossible to spot until it’s about too late.

It will first make a visible appearance on the surface of your palm trunk in the form of a mushroom-like growth.

These “basidiocarp” growths are soft and spongy texture, like a mushroom. They will grow out in a horizontal pattern along the tree trunk.

Sadly, once you see these growths, it likely means the inside of the entire trunk has already rotted.

However, if you keep close care and attention on your sabal palms, you can identify butt rot before it becomes lethal. If you start to recognize signs of this fungus, call a professional.

Finding the right team to treat your palms can help care for the diseased trees so you can avoid a disappointing removal.

4. Bud Rot

You guessed it, bud rot is another form of fungal infection in sabal palm trees (or any other kind of palms). Known to arborists and scientists as “Phytophthora Palmivora,” this fungus occurs more often during warm, humid summer months.

Luckily, with this disease, your trees can be treated if you discover the sickness early on.

Here’s how to recognize it.

Bud rot manifests itself in the form of a discolored spear leaf. The second youngest leaf will then begin to turn yellow/brown and wilt.

You can judge how far along the infection is if the spear leaf easily pulls off the bud. This means the disease has developed quite a bit.

You may also notice that the bud has died as no new leaves grow. Look carefully as the disease may be present even if older leaves still look green and growing.

5. White Powder or Mildew

Have you noticed powdery white mildew growing along the leaves of your palms? This disease, as well as others that are similar and often referred to as Rust or Black Spot, can easily be treated with chemicals if caught early enough.

Typically, you can treat this sort of infection yourself as most garden centers or nurseries will carry the needed chemicals to fight the growth and sickness.

You can also prevent the spreading of this and other fungal diseases among plants by carefully cleaning all pruning and gardening tools if you’ve been working with infected palms.

Sterilize tools between projects as fungus is especially easy to transmit from plant to plant.

When to Call for Help with Removal

While most sabal palm tree diseases are easy to identify and treat with the proper chemicals, knowing when a tree has reached its limit and when it’s wise to remove it is essential.

If you think your palm has reached a point where professional help is needed, contact us. Or, check out our blog post on 5 signs of a dying tree and when to call for help.

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