Time For Freeze Damaged Palms To Go

Numerous palm trees damaged after this winter's freeze

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - It’s been six months since the city was under a deep freeze that damaged a lot of palm trees. Back in the spring, we talked to experts who said you should give the trees a chance to rebound. Now those experts are telling us the how to know if it’s time for trees to go.

The prickly crown makes it hard to call it a chrome dome, but there’s nothing on top.

Arborist Randy Elstrott with Bayou Tree Service said, “Looking at it right now you can’t even tell it’s a palm tree because it’s all been lost. You can give a palm tree about 6 or 7 months and keep watching it. All of the fronds may die and cut those fronds off and just keep watching it and you might see a sprout come up or a couple of sprouts come up you’ve got hope for that palm tree, but that’s not happening here. “

After last winter’s hard freeze lots of homeowners took that wait and see approach, now the experts say the time has come to clear those trees out. Elstrott said, “We get that north wind that comes in with the cold front and it will kill the tissue on the north side of the tree so we end up with this dark area where the bark is sloughed off of it and the wood is decaying.”

Palms damaged in the January freeze 2018 in Chalmette, LA.
Palms damaged in the January freeze 2018 in Chalmette, LA. (Source: Nicondra Norwood)

A putrid smell led the homeowner to look for help. Elstrott points out the source. He said, “These brown streaks that are coming down the trunk of the tree you can see it's almost like there's something oozing out of the tree and there is there's a lot of bacteria and fungi that attack the tree once the wood is dead and they start to eat away at the wood and gasses are formed and all those gasses try to find a way out.”

The fear was a palm disease called Texas Phoenix Decline Fox 8 told you about back in 2015. “It's been around since probably 10 years and it's done quite a bit of damage here in the New Orleans area,” said Elstrott.

While Queen Palms and the Canaries downtown can come down with the sickness. He said, “Everything we’re looking at is because of freeze damage with the possible exception of this one with the conchs on it.” Elstrott says the growths are also a sign the tree is dead inside.

Jimmy Costello owns Palm Garden Depot. He says business is booming. He said, “I've been trying to push them more towards cold hardy palms. Some people good, but some want to go back with the same ones.”

Costello said Mule Palms are very similar to Queen and much more cold resistant. The Robellini is a very popular palm, but most of them didn't survive the freeze. The good thing is you don't have to give up your palm tree altogether. You can replace them with a more cold hardy variety like the Medjool.

Even trees that survived could be a danger. “We’ve got an area here where the wood is decaying so it’s quite possible that a healthy tree will someday topple over. Someday being in the next 2 years,” according to Elstrott.

As we approach the peak of hurricane season it might be a good idea to get those weakened trees cut down to size.

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