LARRY WILLIAMS | Treating cold-injured palm trees in Florida

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The panhandle of Florida was blasted with cold this winter and it’s easy to see the effects on the palms. There are many palms throughout Northwest Florida which appear to be dead or that are dead. The following article is written by Blake Thaxton, UF/IFAS Extension Agent in Santa Rosa County. It provides information on palm problems caused by our cold winter and recent rains as well as recommendations to help.

Cold damage is evident right now from this past winters’ harsh temperatures. Recommendations to help alleviate this problem include selection of the proper species. Some palm species are not well suited to withstand the colder temperatures of our North Florida winters. You’d be wise to consider more cold hardy palms to avoid future problems due to our winter temperatures. The UF/IFAS Extension publication, “Palms for North Florida” provides a good list of the more cold hardy palms. It’s available at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ep359.

Develop a plan of action if your palm(s) experienced cold injury. Freeze damage can make an entire palm canopy turn brown. It may even kill the spear leaf (newly emerging palm leaf that resembles a spear). Even if the spear leaf has died and easily pulls out of the canopy, the palm may not be dead. If the meristem (area of replicating cells that new leaves emerge from) survives, the palm may also survive. If the spear leaf does die, give the palm 5 to 6 months to send out a new leaf before declaring it dead.

Another issue that may arise in the near future with the recent heavy rains is boron deficiency of palms. Boron deficiency can be caused by leaching of soil boron by heavy rain fall or heavy irrigation. When boron has been leached from the soil, it causes an acute (temporary) deficiency that will only last until microorganisms have time to breakdown more soil organic material that releases more boron to the palm. Boron deficiency symptoms includes small, crumpled new leaves, angular leaf tips (hook-leaf) and sometimes stems that bend sharply to one side. The symptoms won’t be visible for 4 to 5 months as the deficiency affects the leaf during development prior to its emergence. By the time it’s seen, the deficiency probably has been already corrected.

Chronic (long-lasting) boron deficiency problems also can occur on palms. This deficiency is usually caused by soil drying and high soil pH. If there is a chronic boron deficiency, a drench can be applied to correct the problem. Learn more about boron and other palm nutrient deficiencies through the following links. http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ep264, http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ep273

Larry Williams, UF/IFAS Extension Agent, Okaloosa County, May 9, 2014


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