Just a terminology check as to why I call palms trees. Most palm species have a single woody stem, and even though most species don't have branches, they cast some shade. Further, as many of us now know, it takes a chainsaw or a pickup truck to remove most of them. So in my book, those characteristics make the majority of palm species a tree.
Many people have adopted the 9 to 3 o'clock (canopy outline) pruning approach to palm maintenance. However, even better is the removal of only the dead or obviously-going-to-die fronds and the fruit and fruit stalks approach. See University of Florida extension recommendations: collier.ifas.ufl.edu/Horticulture/treepruning.htm
I had to share these pictures that demonstrate why palms should not be given what's called a hurricane cut, which severely prunes fronds to leave the tree only foliage in about an 11 o'clock to 1 o'clock position.
First, coconut palms rarely require pruning. They are "self-cleaning" that is, dead fronds drop naturally the best kind of palm to have. Second, these were severely over-pruned. The removal of so much of the frond bases compromises the strength of the entire head's multi-layer structure, which is pretty well designed to absorb the shock of strong winds.
Of course, there may have been a micro-burst of strong wind on this landscape, making the damage worse. However, the au natural, unpruned coconuts within the same block only had a few fronds kinked out of shape. Besides making the crown more prone to high wind damage, overpruning will cause the development of a severe narrowing of the trunk, called pencil-pointing, which could lead to trunk failure, in arboriculture lingo.
Palms that were the least disturbed by Wilma's high winds were, of course, the apparently unfazed cabbage palm, Canary Island date palm, foxtail palms and short-statured palms such as arecas and spindle palms.
Royal palm fronds seem designed to break off, but at least the royals don't uproot as much as the over-planted queen palms. Royal palms that were pretty much frondless in Lee County last year, following Hurricane Charley, generally "refronded" and were back to normal within a year. How damaging two years of frondlessness will be remains to be seen.
A frequently asked question is, "Should I dose the injured palms with copper, fungicides and insecticides to stave off bud rot?" There is no research to indicate fungicides will help the wind-damaged palms, but the fungicides probably will not hurt the palm if used according to the label.
See Drs. Elliott's and Broschats' new tip sheet, "Hurricane-Damaged Palms in the Landscape: Care after the Storm" in the recent updates section at this address: flrec.ifas.ufl.edu
Since there was not a big outcry about palms dying from bud rot following Hurricane Charley, my seat-of-the-pants empirical answer is don't worry about it and let the palms recover on their own. An insecticide application is definitely unnecessary on coconut palms since they are not on the menu of the dreaded palmetto weevil, which attacks primarily cabbage and Canary Island.
Doug Caldwell is a landscape entomologist and commercial landscape horticulturist for University of Florida, Collier County Cooperative Extension Service. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org Call 353-4244 x203 or visit collier.ifas.ufl.edu.