Help For Beaucarnea recurvata

Discussion in 'COMPANION PLANTS - TROPICAL & SUBTROPICAL' started by ScotTi, Mar 28, 2014.

  1. ScotTi

    ScotTi Esteemed Member

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    My Ponytail Palm is rotting at the base. Any ideas of what I could do to save it? Of note aprox. 1/3 of the base insides have rotted out.
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  2. Dypsisdean

    Dypsisdean Administrator Staff Member

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    Boy, that's a tough one Scott. I had something like that happen years ago to one of mine and it turned out to be either ants and/or termites that did the damage - it wasn't "rot." But who knows, maybe it rotted and then they moved in.

    In either case, I don't think that tissue is ever going to fill back in. I think the only thing you can do is examine it closely to see if you can find any critters hidden away inside, and then use whatever is available to kill them.

    I've been using Orthene on some sick palms getting eaten by a boring caterpillar. From what I have read, it can kill on contact, and get absorbed through the roots and leaves as a systemic. I have been filling a watering can with the mixture and getting on a ladder, and pouring it over the top - so it collects in the "crevices" and a fair amount saturates the soil as well.

    What I am using is a dry form called Acephate. And is easy to use, doesn't smell, and doesn't cost very much at the ag store.
     
  3. ScotTi

    ScotTi Esteemed Member

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    Dean, I see no signs of any type of critter. The tissue inside the base looks to be rotting away. Here is a photo of the tissue that came out of the base.
    IMG_4597.jpg IMG_4598.jpg
     
  4. kwtimo

    kwtimo Well-Known Member

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    Location:
    key west, fl 10b-11
    Scott, it looks like something that may have been started by ants or termites, only to be exasperated over time. You could treat accordingly just to be on the safe side, but I'm not sure how deep inside this base crater goes. Looks like you have removed a good bit of funky material, which is a good thing. I know these are tough plants, it could potentially recover and be okay. Stay optimistic. I've had subterranean termites do some stealthy damage, only to cause the ultimate demise of the plant. When my client lost her C. crinita to those bugs, we were both very sad.
     
  5. Dypsisdean

    Dypsisdean Administrator Staff Member

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    I'm thinking along the same lines.

    That is, 1) how extensive is the damage? 2) these are tough plants. I saw one of these (about 6 ft tall) that had been pulled up out of the ground, roots left without soil, and thrown on top of some large benches in an old abandoned greenhouse. By the looks of things, it hadn't had contact with the ground, or any water (not even rain) for many years. And it was still alive. I've seen these in SoCal landscapes that look unwatered/neglected forever, and they look great. So if your problem isn't progressive, it should be OK. With these things, depending on the extent, it could even give it some character with some of the base gnarled up.

    I would explore some more and see how deep that crater goes and peel all the dead away (looks like you may have already done so) and then treat with an all around insecticide, and an all around fungicide - and not just spraying topically - but pouring a good bit all over and drenching the soil as well. After all, what else can you do?

    One more thing that you probably already know - drier is better for these - so if it has been excessively wet there for long periods, that might be your problem. Just some good old fashion "too much wet" for this guy.
     
  6. ScotTi

    ScotTi Esteemed Member

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    Thanks guys! I am going to treat for bugs and fungus to play it safe. Here are a few photos of the now cavernous interior. The base of the plant is 40" wide and the cavern goes in 2' x 2'. You can see from the pictures there is water standing in the cavernous base now (2" of rain today). Not much I can do about the planted location as this baby was here before me. I have always thought that this area stayed to wet for Beaucarnea recurvate but it was fine until now.
    IMG_4606.jpg IMG_4610.jpg IMG_4609.jpg IMG_4611.jpg
     
  7. Moose

    Moose Esteemed Member

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    Scott - the "pony tail palm" is in the family of succulents. It bulbous trunk tissues are a water retention organ, useful in its native habitat.

    I agree with Dean & Tim that some kind of critters did your initial damage. You now have some opportunist fungus taking residence. Saturate the suspect area with some sort of broad spectrum fungicide. The important issue is you need to fill the void to eliminate water retention. I would pack your void with a thick mixture of Sacrete. The fungus will not like the lime in it. Plus this would limit the oxygen supply to the fungus. You would essentially be creating an interior rock, displacing the water. You have more than adequate water for this plant's needs. The cambium is alive so there should be no problems if the rotting is corrected or at least arrested.

    At least this is what I would do.
     
  8. ScotTi

    ScotTi Esteemed Member

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    Thanks! I am going to give it my best shot on saving it.
     
  9. ScotTi

    ScotTi Esteemed Member

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    Wish I had better news to update you guys on the Pony Tail, but all signs are pointing to failure to save it. The rot has continued and with the wet season in full swing now it stays wet. I will try and root the branches, but I am not giving much hope to that working. Img_5636.jpg
     
  10. Dypsisdean

    Dypsisdean Administrator Staff Member

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    I have to agree :Sorry

    You can't win 'em all.
     
  11. Jerry@TreeZoo

    Jerry@TreeZoo Well-Known Member

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    That looks pretty bad. If it were me, and the top appears to look pretty good, I would try some major surgery rather than just give up.

    First, remove every last piece of rot that you can reasonably get to. This might entail digging the whole thing up and cutting half the base off. Don't be afraid because you were going to lose it anyway. Once it is laying on its side, flush repeatedly with peroxide.

    I am of two minds on sealing the damage. You could use that waterproof expanding foam, spray it in to fill all the cavities. You could also use wax, like they use to seal off corn plant canes.

    Or, you could leave it unsealed. Get about a yard of sand and pile it where you want to grow the ponytail. Plant the ponytail in the sand and try to fill the cavity with sand. This should give you a good raised bed to grow in. You must have healthy tissue in contact with the sand all the way around so there are no gaps. It would be like a giant cutting.

    Pray for good weather.

    If it does not work, you can still make cuttings of the branches later.

    Don't use concrete. It actually absorbs water and will keep it wetter than you want.
     
  12. Stan

    Stan Well-Known Member

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    507
    I would't fill any rotted cavity..even if it heals,I would just leave it "with character". That whole "fill it" is from 19th century Horticulture. Like painting cut branch stubs with tar.
    Peroxide it,they are tough plants. Maybe one day it will heal with a cavity that you can run model RR tracks through it!
     
  13. koki

    koki Active Member

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    Location:
    pine island, fl
    Scrape off any soft material and spray the cleaned surface with black sealing tar. They sell it at home depot in a spray can and I've also seen it in a plastic tub with an applicator like rubber cement. I can't remember what it's called...pruning seal or something. We use it on cycads or any other tree that has a wound that needs to be sealed. Make sure it's dry before application.
     
  14. ScotTi

    ScotTi Esteemed Member

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    Thanks for the feedback! The decay has continued and 50% of trunk is gone now.
     
  15. Moose

    Moose Esteemed Member

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    Scott - Which recommendations did you elect to try ?
     
  16. ScotTi

    ScotTi Esteemed Member

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    Ron, I took Toby's suggestion and sealed with the pruning seal after cleaning away more rotted tissue. I noticed today that the plant is beginning to lean. I have some rotting hormone powder now on standby for what looks like will be the last chance to save any of this B. recurvate.
     
  17. Moose

    Moose Esteemed Member

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    Oooh - that is not good news. They are tough plants but - its survival may be precarious at this point. :RakeBash2
     
  18. ScotTi

    ScotTi Esteemed Member

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    With the forces of gravity at work and the calculation of the fallen strike zone to other plants I faced the inevitable. Img_6094.jpg
     
  19. Moose

    Moose Esteemed Member

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    It was getting a standing 8 count, TKO by Scott. :RakeBash
     
  20. ScotTi

    ScotTi Esteemed Member

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    She is a fighter and will not surrender. Img_7114.jpg
     
  21. ScotTi

    ScotTi Esteemed Member

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    Even the cut logs are still in the game putting out growth and a flower stalk. Img_7115.jpg
     
  22. Dypsisdean

    Dypsisdean Administrator Staff Member

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    I guess if you have someone with a "brown thumb" wanting to plant palms, you should tell then to begin with a "Pony Tail Palm" to give them some confidence. :)
     

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