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Tonight's episode: The Case of The Fallen Foxtail!


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#1 Walt

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Posted 08 June 2012 - 05:09 AM

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.

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Above: View looking at fallen foxtail palm in shrub bed (two larger foxtails to the right not seen).


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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 background


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Above: View of trunk base where it rotted off.


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Above: View of planting hole.
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#2 Walt

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Posted 08 June 2012 - 05:11 AM

Below is a photo showing the other two healthy (I hope) foxtail palms in the same irrigated shrub bed. You can see the top of the crown of the fallen foxtail palm at lower right.

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#3 palmmermaid

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Posted 08 June 2012 - 05:33 AM

Walt,

This exact same thing just happened to a friend of mine. No sign of ganoderma. The foxtail just fell over, completely rotted at the base. No white fly, no scale, just rotted away at the base. The leaves were still green.

I am anxious to hear what others have to say.
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#4 redant

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Posted 08 June 2012 - 05:35 AM

Foxtail's like it on the dry side and hate mulch up against the trunk. Looks way to moist to me. I have had ones planted in areas to wet do just that, yet the crown doesn't know the rest died.
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#5 TikiRick

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Posted 08 June 2012 - 07:08 AM

I agree. Too heavy mulch, too heavy of a soil, and too much irrigation.

Most likely, if you do not see any brachs of ganoderma, then it's not it.

My take is that it really never had a chance to establish a root system because of being too damp and heavy.

The other two may just not get the irrigation that that one did. Also, they could be planted in a slightly more sandy soil pocket.
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Rick Leitner
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
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Gratefully, the best of both worlds!

#6 Gonzer

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Posted 08 June 2012 - 08:19 AM

Are/were sprinklers hitting it?
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#7 Walt

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Posted 08 June 2012 - 10:14 AM

Thanks for the replies. I sure tend to agree that the problem was caused by excess water, and it was probably exacerabated as my father tends to overwater during the winter months.

I went back into my photo files and found the below photo (but reverse angle) of the foxtail palms a few days after they were planted in October of 2007. The one on the left is the one that fell over. The one on the extreme right is the one today with a very fat trunk with longitudinal splits down the trunk. Note all the black micro jet irrigator nozzels in the shrub bed.

My mother told me the downed foxtail palm will not be replaced in kind. I have lots of Archontophoenix cunninghamiana in 1 to 3 gallon pots. Perhaps that might be a better choice, as I understand they like lots of water.


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#8 paulgila

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Posted 08 June 2012 - 10:20 AM

whats the soil like,there? my foxes take all the water i can give em but my soil is super well-draining.
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#9 Tomw

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Posted 08 June 2012 - 10:47 AM

I also believe that it is an over watering issue. Looking at the picture I see that the one closest to the house not only gets irrigation, but also runoff from the roof. Putting the Archontophoenix is great idea it will love the water!

I went back and looked at all of the pictures and noticed that there is a down spout right there.

Edited by Tomw, 08 June 2012 - 10:50 AM.

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#10 Walt

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Posted 08 June 2012 - 10:49 AM

whats the soil like,there? my foxes take all the water i can give em but my soil is super well-draining.


The soil is very well drained; nothing but sugar sand. Plus, the shrub bed is on high ground compared to the lake and ground water table.
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#11 Walt

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Posted 08 June 2012 - 05:07 PM

I also believe that it is an over watering issue. Looking at the picture I see that the one closest to the house not only gets irrigation, but also runoff from the roof. Putting the Archontophoenix is great idea it will love the water!

I went back and looked at all of the pictures and noticed that there is a down spout right there.


Good eye! I didn't even think about the down spout, especially it's proximity to the palm in question. Those downspouts were only installed about a year, maybe a little more, ago.

I'm pretty much satisfied (based on my original suspicions and now the consensus of the responses) that excess water is the reason for the trunk and root rot.
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