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Fusarium Decline is Killing Our Queen Palms

There is a new disease that has been killing queen palms all over the state of Florida for the last few years. The disease is called Fusarium Decline in Queen Palms.

The Fusarium Decline disease is caused by a fungus that infects the bud of queen palms and produces a toxin that rapidly kills the tree. The disease appears to spread in different ways including air-born spores, by infected pruning tools, and through infected soil. The disease is slow growing in queen palms and it takes about 8 months for an infected palm to show symptoms of decline. Once the lower leaves start to turn brown, the progression of symptoms is very rapid and the whole palm is dead within 4 weeks.

There have been no chemical controls found that will control the fungus or prevent the spread of the disease to surrounding queen palms. Tens of thousands of queen palms have died across the southern half of Florida in the last few years. The fungus that causes this disease is difficult to isolate in the lab. Samples from known infected palms do not always yield positive results when cultured in the lab. The disease often becomes apparent this time of year. Sanitation is the key to preventing the spread of this disease. The infected palm should be removed as soon as possible, including as much of the root ball and soil as practical. Place a plastic tarp down to try to capture as much of the soil from around the root ball as possible. Tools used to remove the palm should be disinfected after use. Tools used to prune queen palms during normal maintenance should be disinfected in between tree work to help reduce the spread of the disease. There is no way to completely prevent the disease from spreading since there is no chemical control and the spores can spread through the air. It is also impossible to determine the origin of the infection.

Do not plant another queen palm where one was formerly planted, as replacement queen palms will become infected from the soil. Mexican fan palms also get this disease. No other palms have been found to be susceptible to this disease and it is safe to plant a different type of palm where a queen palm was planted before.

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