DAVIE, Fla. – More than 65 species of palm trees in the United States are vulnerable to a wood-decaying fungus which could be devastating to South Florida’s landscape.
Researchers with the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agriculture Sciences in Davie have come up with a way to detect the fungus before it’s too late, but they need help from the public.
For years now, Dr. Braham Dhillon, a plant pathology with UF-IFAS has been on the hunt for a silent killer: a soil-born disease attacking palm trees called ganoderma buttrot.
“It infects the lower portion of the tree and that area, around the roots, is called the butt of the tree,” Dhillon said.
The infection degrades the structural integrity of the palm from the inside out.
“So that means in the event of wind or even without wind, if it’s too degraded or rotten, the palms can actually fall and be a liability for pedestrians or property, by the sidewalk or wherever the palm is planted,” he said.
Dhillon said when the disease infects the tree, the lower branches will drop flat against the trunk and a mushroom-like fungus will grow at the base of the tree.
That fungus produces millions of spores that can spread by wind or water and through the ground to nearby palms.
Dhillon and his team have developed a diagnostic test to catch the disease and possibly save the tree before it’s too late.
“So we can receive samples from landscapers, homeowners,” he said.
All you need is a basic drill to take samples from opposite sides of the tree near the base, allow the shavings to fall into a plastic bag, and then send them in to the UF-IFAS Lab.
“The other part of our research here is to develop methods to basically kill the fungus either in the soil or in the trunk,” Dhillon said.
Consumers, landscapers and businesses can pull its form online, follow the instructions and send their samples to the lab by clicking here.