Words you don’t ever want to hear: “I’m sorry but you have a case of butt rot.”
That announcement set us back on our, um, heels, but we soon realized the shocking news had nothing to do with our posteriors.
The verdict came from an expert in plant life who spotted the dreaded disease with the attention-getting name in a stand of areca palms in our yard.
She leaned down and pointed to a cluster of ugly growths that resembled mushrooms on steroids attached to the lower extremities of these 20 year old arecas, tall, graceful palms that made a great buffer between our neighbors’ screened lanai and ours.
Experts call the growth a fungal conk. Its official name is Ganoderma butt rot or Ganoderma zonatum. One respected landscaper on Marco Island, Eileen Ward, puts the problem bluntly for residents who have palms on their property.
“These conks start as small white lumps and quickly mature into brown, woody brackets up to one foot across. They can release millions of spores, which can infect healthy palms some distance away.
“It’s important to remove infected trees as soon as possible. Also, dig out the stump. Prevention is the only control for root diseases.”
Ms. Ward suggests sterilizing the soil where infected palms stood and urges landscapers to sterilize their pruning and digging tools as well. There are no effective cures for butt rot.
Examine your palm trees
If you have areca or queen palms, check them carefully for evidence of butt rot. They can infect your other palms — coconut, Christmas, sabal, etc.
All palms are assumed susceptible to butt rot, according to the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. The Institute also says this fungus exists throughout Florida and in Georgia and South Carolina, but is most prevalent in the southern half of Florida. That’s us.
One other bit of unwelcome news — it’s not uncommon for infected palms to show signs of decline and death even before the conk things appear.
This specific variety of butt rot reportedly seldom attacks other plant species, such as trees (technically, palms are grasses, not trees). But other types, such as Ganoderma lucidum, often cause butt rot in hardwoods.
We understand why some people might wish to plant new palms in the empty space left by the ones that had to be removed. Don’t do it.
As the University of Florida experts put it: “It has been observed that replacement palms in the same site where a palm died from Ganoderma butt rot also became diseased and died. Replanting is risky. Any plant other than a palm would be a wise choice.”
We had to act quickly to save our other palms, so we consulted landscape designer Karen Anglin at Marco’s Island Garden Center. She made several suggestions, including the pitch apple, a bushy tree in evidence in some yards around the island. It’s also called the Caribbean monkey tree or Clusia Rosea. We’ll stick with pitch apple.
Frederic Stresau in “Florida My Eden” says it’s a showy tree with green and yellow foliage that grows fast and is an “excellent screen or buffer” because of “its low spreading habit.”
Another plus — the pitch apple, says Mr. Stresau, is that its “red-fleshed seeds are loved as bird food.” So the upshot of all this:
Removal of mature areca palms — expensive.
Presence of young, fast growing Pitch Apples — encouraging.
Absence of butt rot — priceless.
- Pamphlet on butt rot from U. of Fla: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu
- Eileen Ward, Greensward of Marco, Inc.: 394-1413.
- Karen Anglin, Island Garden Center: 394-1123.
A new Smokehouse Bridge, and then some
It’s not too early to reserve a seat to get details of a major bridge project on Marco and its surrounding area — the bridge over Smokehouse Bay near Jane Hittler Park.
Five possible designs for the project will be unveiled June 22, at an “In The Round” town meeting at Orion Bank. At issue is how to connect the new Veterans park with the Esplanade area and Hittler Park.
If you attend, you’ll get an early chance to voice your opinion. For reservations phone Keith Dameron at Orion Bank, 403-5169.
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