Recap of March First Friday with Florida First Detector
In March, we dove into the topic of invasive species on palm trees. From our landscapes to our natural areas, palms are a huge part of what makes Florida, uniquely Florida! In this month’s webinar, we talked about several species that have not yet been found in Florida including the red palm weevil (Rhynchophorus ferrugineus), the south American palm weevil (Rhynchophorus palmarum), the red ring nematode (Bursaphelenchus cocophilus), and the coconut rhinoceros beetle (Oryctes rhinoceros). These are all species that we do not want to have establish in Florida. We are on the lookout for these species, so if they are introduced, this early detection may be able to help prevent spread.
The larvae of both the red palm weevil and south American palm weevil can feed inside the palms. They create tunnels in the trunk or the base of the fronds. This can even lead to the toppling of the palm crown when damage is severe. In addition to direct damage caused by the weevil larvae, the south American palm weevil can vector the red ring nematode. One identifiable symptom of the red ring disease is a reddish circular band found in the roots, stems and petiole. This symptom can show up as soon as 2-3 weeks after the nematode infests a palm. Red ring disease primarly affects coconut palms and African oil palms, but it can also cause problems on other species such as our native cabbage palm. The coconut rhinoceros beetle is another unique invasive pests of palms. Unlike our palm weevils, the adult coconut rhinoceros beetle causes damage to healthy palms. They feed on the leaves and can also burrow into the crown of the palm. The larva of the coconut rhinoceros beetle usually only feed on decaying matter of dead palms.
We also briefly talked about two phytoplasmas that have been causing problems in Florida’s palms, lethal bronzing (Candidatus Phytoplasma aculeata) and lethal yellowing (Candidatus Phytoplasma palmae). Both can cause variable symptoms depending on the palm species they are infecting. Some symptoms include premature drop of fruits, discolored foliage starting with oldest leaves, death of the spear leaf. The decline of a palm can happen very quickly and different species have varying levels of susceptibility. It was recently discovered that the American palm cixiid, Haplaxius crudus can vector these pathogens. There is currently ongoing research to better understand management options for lethal bronzing and lethal yellowing.
While there are many other pests and pathogens found on palms, we focused on some of the priority invasive species for this webinar. We regularly offer educational programs on palms that dive more into the management of our palms and palm problems in Florida. Stay up to date on other classes that UF/IFAS Extension Seminole County offers by following us on Facebook.
Resources on Palms
- Ft. Lauderdale Research and Education Center Palm Diagnostics Key
- ID Tools for Palm Pathogens (website currently under construction and may be unavailable)
- UF Fort Lauderdale REC, Dr. Brian Bahder’s lab, Diagnostic testing for lethal bronzing and lethal yellowing
- EDIS, Ask IFAS documents on palm pests
- EDIS, Ask IFAS documents on palm pathogens
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