A few days ago my dear mother called me to say one of her foxtail palms had fallen over. We haven't had any severe weather and I told her I found it hard to believe, as I had just recently checked on her foxtails (she has three) because two of them had started to produce their first flower bracts. These palms were planted about four years ago and were well established.
Yesterday I went over to my parent's house and checked out the fallen foxtail palm. At first I used my fingers to pull back the mulch so as to inspect farther down into the soil, but the plastic weed mesh (that covers the entire bed beneath the mulch) prevented me in doing that. I then just lifted and pulled the palm out of the bed and onto the grass. I was surprised the palm just pulled out of the soil very easily, as I've had palms of this size blown over by hurricanes and no way could you pull them out of the ground with only some roots snapped on the opposite side the palm was blown over to.
Once out of the ground I quickly saw there was no root system, other than the remnants of just a couple of stubby roots. I also noticed no new initiation roots, which indicated to me a serious problem.
Inspecting the trunk base I saw no basidiocarps or termites or other insect infestation. The new spear and many of the fronds were normal (green and healthy). Two of the lowermost fronds were turning brown.
I'm thinking that the palm was infected with ganoderma or just had some kind of trunk rot. I have no experience with gano in foxtail palms, only queen palms. I lost five mature queen palms this year to ganoderma butt rot. But in queen palms, the entire crown collapsed, one frond at a time, until the palm basically died. This process took about one year or so. So if crown collapse is a salient symptom of ganoderma butt rot, I'm puzzled that this foxtail palm has maintained its crown.
One thing I do know is that the shrub bed has micro irrigation which runs often. The other two foxtail palms have fat trunk. One of the foxtail palms has a very fat trunk with longitudinal splits in it, indicated way too much water uptake.
Another point here is that all three foxtail palms were about the same size when planted professionally. However, the one that fell over was always the runt of the three, at least with regard to the trunk caliper diameter. Maybe this palm has inferior genes that made it more suseptible to too much water (just guessing for what it may be worth).
My parents home is lakefront, on a 3,504 acre lake. Hence, the thermal lake effect basically prevents any freezing temperatures. I know for a fact that these foxtails have never been frond (leaves) damaged in the four years they've been planted, so I'm ruling out cold weather as being the problem.
If anybody has any guesses as to what happened to this palm, please chime in. Above: View looking at fallen foxtail palm in shrub bed (two larger foxtails to the right not seen).Above: Overall view of fallen foxtail palm after I pulled it from the shrub bed so as to better inspect it. The palm will be cut up and placed on the burn pile shown in the left backgroundAbove: View of trunk base where it rotted off.Above: View of planting hole.