En EspaŅol
Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Mr. Smarty Plants - Palm plant with lower inches browning in Alexandria VA

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Tuesday - July 21, 2009

From: Alexandria , VA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Diseases and Disorders
Title: Palm plant with lower inches browning in Alexandria VA
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Palm plant 10 years old, about 5' tall, single trunk approximately 1" diameter, reddish green leaves about 12 to 14 inches long, original owner. All leaves on the lower 2 inches of plant leaves are brown, no others above are brown?

ANSWER:

You didn't say which palm you have, and there are hundreds of different species with the name "palm." We found 7 species in our Native Plant Database that are native to North America, but none of them is native to Virginia, as it is just a little too far north to be hospitable to the sub-tropical palm. One, Sabal palmetto (cabbage palmetto) comes the closest to Virginia, being native to North and South Carolina. We are going to use that as an example, and do some research to see what causes palm leaves to turn brown. We will also give you the names and pictures of the palms native to North America in our Native Plant Database. We will not have any non-native palms to show you, as the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is dedicated to the use, care and propagation of plants native not only to North America but to the area in which the plant is being grown. 

Rhapidophyllum hystrix (needle palm)

Roystonea elata (Florida royal palm)

Sabal mexicana (Rio Grande palmetto)

Sabal minor (dwarf palmetto)

Sabal palmetto (cabbage palmetto) - northernmost palm in North America, native as near as North Carolina

Serenoa repens (saw palmetto)

Washingtonia filifera (California fan palm)

From the Conditions Comments page in our Native Plant Database on Sabal palmetto (cabbage palmetto) we excerpted this information:

"Conditions Comments: Cabbage palm is not known to occur naturally over 75 miles from the coast. It is immune to salt spray. Old leaves brown and hang from the base of the crown. Unless they are trimmed away, this creates great habitat for desirable birds and undesirable rodents. The decision to trim or not to trim is a matter of preference. The tree does fine either way. A delicacy known as swamp cabbage is produced from the bud or embryonic leaves of the tree, thus the common name. Removing the bud kills the palm so this practice is discouraged. Trunk wounds also seriously harm or kill the tree."  Dead leaves may persist on the trunk, hanging from the crown to form a "skirt". In urban situations it is recommended that these be removed, as they create shelter for rats and other undesirable creatures.

If none of this helps, try the book from University of Florida Press Ornamental Palm Horticulture  by Timothy K. Broschat and Alan W. Meerow. Find some Q&A from this book that might apply to your situation.

 

From the Image Gallery


Needle palm
Rhapidophyllum hystrix

Mexican palm
Sabal mexicana

Dwarf palmetto
Sabal minor

Cabbage palmetto
Sabal palmetto

More Diseases and Disorders Questions

Mountain Laurels are dying in Georgetown, TX.
April 02, 2012 - Ten year old Mountain Laurels both last year and this spring have had entire branches turn brown just after blooming this Feb. Round Rock Arborist suggested I contact you. Last year one of my laurels...
view the full question and answer

Grey Goo Coming from red Oak in Manchaca TX
May 13, 2013 - I have a large Red Oak in my yard that appears to be weeping some sort of grey goo from parts of the trunk. What is this goo and do I need to treat it and if so how? I'm happy to come by the Wildflow...
view the full question and answer

Problems with non-native Banana Shrub from Houston
May 01, 2014 - My 7' beloved Banana Shrub (magnolia) has white dots on top of the leaves and nasty black stuff covering the backside of the leaves. The plant is dropping leaves. What can I do to save it? I has bee...
view the full question and answer

Live oak leaves yellowing from Denton TX
January 26, 2012 - In autumn of 2010 I planted 10 live oaks about 6 to 7 ft. tall. I have see that during the month of Dec. 2011 to Jan. 2012 they are showing some yellow leaves. What can I do to help them?
view the full question and answer

Changing bloom color from Tulsa OK
June 27, 2011 - How do you change the bloom color?
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center