The beloved sabal palmetto palm, or cabbage palm is a tree dear to South Carolina and Florida. Both states have legislatively embraced the tree as their State Tree and millions of dollars have been invested in planting the tree in very unusual and beautiful landscapes. Unfortunately, the tree is in trouble.
The sable palm is being attacked by a microscopic pathogen called Texas Phoenix palm decline (TPPD), first discovered in Texas in 1970. University of Florida scientists have used DNA testing to confirm the deadly phytoplasma but don't know how it is spread or how to stop it.
A Florida landscape industry pathologist says it's impossible to say what impact the disease will have on sabal palms but "it's not going to be good." Landscapers believe there will be be fewer palms and may present a less attractive tree in nature because of the disease. Researchers still don't know exactly how the disease is transported or attacks the tree.
Both state's Cooperative Extension Service experts call for calm and reasonable future management of the cabbage palm. These beautiful trees can show symptoms that resemble TPPD but are not necessarily infected with the disease. Give your tree a little time to make sure it is beyond recovery.