Palm Grower's Tip - "Marking the Spear"

Discussion in 'PALM TREES - WHERE TROPICAL STARTS' started by Dypsisdean, Feb 16, 2014.

  1. Dypsisdean

    Dypsisdean Administrator Staff Member

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    Palms have a nasty habit of dying long before they look dead. Because they are monocots, they have a single small growing poing (meristem) in the center of each stem (trunk). This is what is eaten as palm heart, and it is tasty to bugs, and sensitive to rot (fungus) if damaged by bugs, cold weather, or physical damage.

    This growing point can die, but the rest of the palm can stay green and even appear healthy for many months, depending on its size. But here is a trick to help you decide whether your palm is still alive - because sometimes they are growing so slowly that it is hard to know for sure.

    Notice in these pics how I have used a felt pen to mark a line across a petiole from an already opened and mature frond, and onto the emerging spear. As you will see, when I take another photo tomorrow and the next day, the two lines will not look the same. If my palm is alive, the line on the spear will move above the line on the other frond. This is also a good way to get an idea how fast your palm is growing - as without this point of reference, the emerging spear will look the same day after day, especially in some of the slower palms. Or especially in a palm that has been cold or otherwise damaged. But this method will tell you if there is hope. If it doesn't move at all for several days - then sadly your palm will die - if it is a solitary species.
     

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  2. Dypsisdean

    Dypsisdean Administrator Staff Member

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    All Right - Here it is - 24 hours later.

    And you can plainly see, this palm is alive and well. :)
    IMG_1314PT.jpg
     
  3. Dypsisdean

    Dypsisdean Administrator Staff Member

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    For anyone still interested, here is a photo from 48 hours after the marking.
     

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  4. kwtimo

    kwtimo Well-Known Member

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    Dean, that is pretty cool, and a great way to determine if your new spear is moving or not. But what about the painfully slow growing palm species like most Coccothrinax, Copernecia or even Hemithriniax to name a few? By the way, your D. mealy bug is gorgeous. It has me hoping that my newly planted one will look as good as yours. CAM00216.jpg CAM00212.jpg :D
     
  5. Dypsisdean

    Dypsisdean Administrator Staff Member

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    Try it and you will see. A Mealy Bug is not a particularly fast palm. But I could probably notice some movement within hours if using a precise line. With this method it is easy to see if the spear has even moved a sixteenth of an inch. and I'll bet you even the slowest palm grows that much in a day. If not, just wait a few days. But you will know if after several days, and you see absolutely no movement, it is time to start thinking about what new palm you can put in that place. :(

    BTW - yours looks gorgeous - and is the preferred variety IMO (the reddish one). I just saw Jeff Marcus' and his newly planted red ones now have 2 rings of trunk and one is even flowering. Yours should do well - although the SoFlo guys complain about these "forest" Dypsis.
     
  6. TonyLoco

    TonyLoco Active Member

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  7. Dypsisdean

    Dypsisdean Administrator Staff Member

    Messages:
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    Location:
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    This method is more of a way to get positive confirmation that a palm is alive - not a sure fire way to declare it dead. I have had palms without a spear (after being eaten, or pulled out after rotting) come back after a year of no visible new spear emerging.

    But then again, I have had palms sit there for over a year with no movement and appear to be alive, only to slowly die in the second year. However, that palm was in fact already as good as dead from the start if the meristem was dead.

    But if you can see or confirm spear movement, you can rejoice that your palm is definitely alive. This is especially valuable in locations where it can freeze. After a freeze, the center spear can still appear intact, even if the meristem has frozen and begun to rot deep inside. You will not be able to see this - but if you mark your spear and it remains motionless, you are in trouble. But conversely, if you can confirm movement, you are safe.

    The good news is that Phoenix would have to be considered one of the tougher palms. However, any palm without a noticeable spear or spear movement for a prolonged period is definitely in jeopardy. And until and unless you can confirm a growing spear, your palm could unfortunately be dead. But even the brown spear can move, as the new green part down inside grows up. So you can even mark a brown spear and hope to see it move.
     

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