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Palm Roots – What’s Normal?

As you work in your garden or wander your landscape, be on the lookout for pests and potential problems. Start learning what’s normal and what may seem abnormal. When in doubt, contact your local Extension office for help with gardening questions.

For example, one homeowner did everything right. She noticed these “funny-looking roots” growing out of the bottom of her royal palm.

image of adventitious roots at the base of the trunk of a royal palm

Photo of “strange palm roots” submitted by Tampa homeowner.

Although she didn’t think it looked normal, she wasn’t sure what to do. Friends told her it was a disease called Ganoderma butt rot and the palm was unhealthy. She contacted the Extension office and emailed digital photos to get information about what might be happening.

Ganoderma butt rot is a disease that may affect all palm species, but that is usually because of rot on the lower part of the trunk due to fungus. You may see symptoms such as yellowing leaves and possibly evidence of a conk – or mushroom – on the lower trunk.

But this stately, royal palm is healthy. The roots are normal – those are called adventitious roots and part of the growth of the palm/root initiation zone. Nothing needs to be done — and don’t add soil to cover them up.

One of my favorite UF/IFAS publications is Normal “Abnormalities” in Palms. Figure 1 in this document shows a photo of a palm with similar roots. This is normal root growth.

At Extension, we love getting questions/emails like this, especially when homeowners call or email before taking action or when no control is needed because the plants are healthy.

In this case, the homeowner kept the royal palm in the landscape (which is a well-established, mature specimen plant), and no pesticides were applied.

Monitoring or “scouting” the landscape is easy, and it’s the first step to identify potential problems — along with the interesting blooms, wildlife