‘Tis the season when many deck their palm fronds with holiday lights, lighting the night sky with sparkles of cheer. I know this may sound just a little bit Grinch-y. Yet, I find myself thinking, “I must stop this practice from continuing. But how?”
The Not So Jolly Effects of Holiday Lights
Long after the lights come down palms may begin to show some not so jolly effects. That’s because many landscapers and designers staple the lights to the leaf stalks (rachises) of each illuminated frond. This creates small wounds that can act as entry points for disease organisms. Once decay occurs, it can spread throughout the palm frond, potentially leading to browning or possibly death of the frond. Although the damage may not cause death of the palm, it can make expensive palms look downright unsightly into the new year.
How to Detect Holiday Light Damage
Holiday light damage shows up in the canopy of the palm, with dead or dying fronds randomly interspersed among the healthy fronds. This may distinguish the damage from certain fatal palm diseases and nutrient deficiencies, which tend to have a less random pattern. To diagnose holiday light damage, inspect affected palm fronds for the tell-tall wounds, as seen in the images. To diagnose other palm problems, check out this helpful interactive key: https://flrec.ifas.ufl.edu/palmprod/palm-problems-key/.
Staple wound damage from holiday lights
Cross section of staple wound showing interior decay