Palm Problems

Surprise update on the case of the date palm with Texas Phoenix Palm Decline

26 June 2014 Idea of the day “One man with courage is a majority.” Thomas Jefferson

We are replacing the majestic Medjool date palm at the front gate of my ranch-owner client. Fortunately the TPPD bacterium doesn’t transfer through the soil so it’s safe to re-plant in the same spot right away.

But the other day I received what I thought was bad news about the progress of the disease. His field hand reported to me that it looked like another Medjool date way at the back of the property about 1/4 of a mile away was now also succumbing to the same thing. He told me it “looks puny!” A down-home funny way of putting it, but I had to agree. Here’s a photo of what he sent me. 1403546837374_IMG_1403546827384

This was despite having injected it with the anti-biotic. I let the owner know that the distributor does have a note on his website that after TPPD is confirmed by a lab test, as it had been in this case, that they recommended a double dose injection be administered to any other date palm on the property. And then another double dose in 14 days. We had provided him with about 150 doses for his men to inject, so hopefully that will be done with the other eleven. Still I wasn’t sure, as the flower stalks are still bright orange as you can see and the lower fronds were still mostly green, something you don’t usually see in early TPPD symptoms.

I also mentioned to him that there are four Florida palms known to be resistant to TPPD that he may want to consider in any re-planting – the Bismark, the Solitaire, the Foxtail and the very dramatic Royal palm. There also has been no definitive case of TPPD in a Washingtonian fan palm, but these aren’t usually considered majestic palms appropriate to decorating a front entranceway. They’re thinner and very tall which can be fine to line a driveway but not to make a grand entry statement.

Interesting how this disease can spread – and harbor the bacterium without showing any signs at first. The anti-biotic is supposed to be able to keep the reproductive cycle of the bacterium enough suppressed that it doesn’t catch the disease. We will have to see if this one can be saved. I’ll let you know.
NEWS FLASH – Here on July 1, checking back with the ranch, turns out this palm shown above was surrounded by other damage to electrical wires and it’s been determined that it was struck by lightning and isn’t spreading TPPD after all. This is certainly good news and a good idea of what lightning struck palms look like.  Notice in the photo that this is confirmed by the fact that the lower fronds had not gone brown and the flowers stalks are still bright orange, items which both go brown when a palm gets TPPD. The Tampa metro area is one of the hottest lightning storm locales in the United States so this isn’t surprising at all, especially with this palm being on top of a wide open hill.

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Good News for the Owner of the Palm with TPPD

20 June 2014 Idea of the Day “The greater the ignorance the greater the dogmatism” Sir William Osler, Johns Hopkins co-founder

I left you a week ago with the news that one of my clients had a Medjool date palm that was confirmed positive for Texas Phoenix Palm Decline (TPPD) a fatal disease of expensive date palms.

Today we were out there removing the tree, injecting the anti-biotic in all the other date palms on the property and grinding the stump. Turned out we had a problem with the stump I had to call the owner about. He was in his North Carolina mountain vacation home and I hated to bother him but this was a decision that had to be made immediately.

“Hi Tom. Sorry I had to bother you but we have a bit of an emergency decision that needs to be made.”
“Sure,” he said in his affable country style.
“I’ve got my grinder guy here to grind the stump and after moving away the dirt on top, he’s found that the palm stump has grown over the years to completely encompass wires that go to your front lighting system. To grind that stump away and be able to plant something new, the only way to do it is to destroy that wiring.”
“Gees.” There was a slight pause but Tom always made fast rational decisions. “Well let’s do it. I’ll call my electrical guy and let him know he needs to re-wire it.”
“Ok. I think that’s what’s needed. Especially since we are grinding two feet deep to make room for the root ball of a new planting. By the way, what are you planning to re-plant there?” I asked.
“Well since the two palms frame the front gate and now there’s only one there it will look badly unbalanced. I was thinking I’d like to plant another date palm.”
Hmm, I was thinking he might want to do that. But I had some concern about it.
“I’ve heard there are some palms that can’t be replanted right back in the same spot immediately without risk of catching the same fungus or bacterium. But I’m not a palm expert. Let me talk to a friend down in Sarasota I know that has years of field experience with palms and will know if this is safe. Don’t want you losing another one!”
“That would be good. Let me know.”
“Sure will.”
And then I was off to track down my buddy in the palm business in Sarasota, who I was suddenly calling every few days recently after months and years of not needing his services.
“Hey Wayne I’m calling you too much!”
“Not a problem, not a problem. Whatcha got?”
“I have this client who lost a Medjool date palm to TPPD and now he wants to plant another one in the same spot. From your field experience is that safe?”
“Yes. Gandoderma root rot transfers through the soil and roots. Even Fusarium wilt has been seen to infect some soils. In those cases you want to wait at least 18 months before you plant a similar susceptible palm But TPPD is transferred by leaf hopping insects that suck the sap out of one palm which carries the bacterium and then they hop to another one and inject it into it. So soil isn’t a concern. He should be fine.”
“Well that’s good news. Because this location needs to match its partner on the other side of his entrance gate.”
“I’d just recommend that he immediately starts the OTC anti-biotic on this palm, even gets a DNA core sample done before he buys it to make sure it’s not infected from the farm, and give a double dose to the one closest to it so it’s less likely to spread. Those palms are expensive to replace and you don’t want to be the one blamed for another failure and possibly paying for it!”
“Wow. Yeah. Thanks for the tip!”
I wrote back the good news to Tom that he could plant another Medjool date right away and he was very happy.
“Great! Can you find one and get it installed?”
I had to laugh. We weren’t really in the palm business and it can be a lot of work to plant these 25 foot high palms. Guess it was back to my palm man for more tips! Poor Wayne! I would owe him more than a few favors now.
Here’s what the ground up diseased date palm looks like now! Waiting for a new replacement 🙂 Removed Medjool and stump ground
And here is the one we need to match, looking healthy and apparently not infected – but Wayne tells me they can be infected without showing any external signs for a while, so it’s on a regular anti-biotic schedule. To match it, I ask for a 15 foot clear trunk with a 25 ft. total crown height. Healthy Medjool that needs to be matched

So I called Wayne up and got all the needed info about planting large palms and found out he was starting to plan for the sale of his company within five years. From years doing management consulting and having had 10 little businesses of my own, I was glad to pass on a handful of things he needed to start putting attention on as he was still running his whole operation himself.
“Now I’m thanking you,” he said. “I think that plan to get my nephew trained and running the day- to-day business with performance incentives toward ownership and writing up job descriptions for everything I do sound like great ideas. So thank you!”
“And thank YOU!”
People helping each other is a great way to play. Now if I could just find the right kind of boom truck to plant that new date palm . . .

The Mystery of the Browning Date Palms

13 June 2014 Idea of the Day “A great step to knowledge is to become conscious that you are ignorant of the facts.” Benjamin Disraeli, British statesman and prime minister

If you’ve been following the stories here you know I have just recently gotten a positive confirmation that a serious disease of date palms has been recently confirmed in the Tampa Bay area again in several locations – Texas Phoenix Palm Decline, TPPD for short. Unless caught early and treated with the right anti-biotic in the right way, it quickly kills the palm. And it not only attacks date palms but also the state tree – the sabal palmetto! It makes arborists nervous of what could happen to a lot of the palms that visitors expect to decorate the Florida landscape.

A few days ago I got a call from a close colleague who mostly deals in hardwoods. He doesn’t particularly like dealing with palms because a) they aren’t really trees and b) they are terrifically labor and time consuming without much pay for the trimming work. But now he had a problem. One of his largest customers had a palm problem and they were expecting him to fix it and save their investment!

“They have eight new Sylvester dates or maybe they’re Medjool dates, they look very similar when young, that they planted last December. Each one is about a $5000 investment so this is important. They were doing fine through the winter and the spring but now the lower fronds are rapidly turning brown in a much greater proportion than you’d normally see. Just to get a second opinion, would you go look at them and tell me what you think? Tell me if you think it could be TPPD since you’ve been examining a few of those cases recently.”

I said sure I’d be glad to look at them as the location was close. I drove downtown, parked right next to the area, got out and looked. This is what I saw.
Sylvester palms going brown
They were fairly attractive 15 ft. probably Sylvester dates. They had obviously been transplanted as mature palms, not grown from seedlings. Yes the lower fronds were not yellowing like you see with a nutritional problem. They were going from green straight to brown. And it had all happened in about the last three or four weeks.

I looked at all eight of the date palms around the edges of the little city park. Seven of them had dead flower stalks, so they weren’t going to flower or fruit this year. This early die off of the flowers and fruit is a typical sign of TPPD. But one of the palms still had bright orange flower stems with little dates at the ends.

Was this attacking the entire neighborhood? I walked around for about four square blocks and saw lots of other Medjool date and Sylvester date palms. The Medjools had bright orange flower stalks and were flush with dates. In fact, as I was walking along the sidewalk I’d occasionally hear them falling and one almost hit me in the head! The splattered residues of many dates were painting the sidewalks. Wow, outside of a farm these could really be a mess. I saw about fifty of these healthy Medjool date palms, so they weren’t been affected if this was TPPD.

When I found other Sylvesters in other parts of the neighborhood I noticed they did not have any orange flower stalks, only a few shells of dead ones. Hmm, could they all be possibly infected too? But they didn’t have brown fronds. They looked deep green and healthy. I saw a maintenance guy on his knees in a garden working on the landscape and thought I’d quiz him.

“Excuse me, sir, I’m an arborist doing an examination of some palms on a nearby property and I have a question.”
“Sure, what can I do for you?” he said, looking up with a big smile.
“I notice the orange flower stalks of all these Sylvesters are gone. This can be a sign of a disease. Have you seen any of the orange stalks this year?”
He had a ready answer.
“Oh yeah, we just went through last week and pruned them all out because we don’t want fruit falling all over the sidewalks this summer like they are on the other sidewalks in town!”
I laughed. I knew what he was talking about. This was encouraging.
“Oh good, glad to hear that. They’re not sick. I didn’t think so. They all look so green and luxuriant.”
“Thanks!” he said and went back to working on the garden.

So as I sauntered back to the problem palms around the little park area, I summed up some conclusions. This problem wasn’t affecting any other palm in the entire area. It made it seem more likely it was a problem just of these palms because leafhopping insects will spread TPPD.

I looked at the irrigation system and it looked inadequate. Palms don’t need as much water as hardwoods but they still need a lot when transplanted. These palms were just being fed by a drip system, almost surely not enough water.

I thought I would call a fellow arborist friend down in Sarasota who specialized in palms. As soon as you go south of the Tampa Bay area the climate changes to a more tropical climate and there are a lot more palms. He sees so many cases of everything for palms I thought he’d have some experience to draw on.

“Hey Wayne how are you? It’s Bob.”
“Hey good to hear from you!”
“Sorry to bother you again but I’ve got another palm problem.”
Wayne was always helpful.
“Well give me the facts. I’ll see if I can shed some light on it.”
I relayed all the observations and facts I had seen along with my worry about possible TPPD.
“Bob it doesn’t sound like TPPD. For one thing, I’ve never seen TPPD hit every palm, one right next to another like you’re describing. The insects roam and hop maybe the fourth one down, then the third one after that and randomly after that.”
“Oh that’s interesting,” I said, “and good to hear too!”
“Yeah, plus these browning symptoms are only affecting the newly planted ones. So I think you’re safe in that regard. I suspect this is transplant shock made visible by the recent last month of new summer heat and an insufficient water supply. They should install bubblers instead of a drip system.” He continued. “When palm roots are cut at transplant, it’s not only a shock, but unlike hardwoods their roots don’t continue to grow from the cut. They have to start new growth from the base of the trunk. So they do need a good amount of water to establish new roots. Heat will cause a much greater pull of water loss out of the leaves. Not enough water in the palm will brown the fronds.”
“That’s sort of what I was starting to think,” I said. But I wanted to pick his brain a little further. “You’ve cared for thousands of palms. What would you do next if this was your problem?”
“Well of course I’d get the irrigation system to deliver more water with bubblers, but I’d also give them a little fertilizer nutrition to help them come back. I wouldn’t use granular amendments which can be slow to get to the palm because of the new slow release coatings. They need help right away. I have found and used a liquid palm fertilizer which I’d apply at only a light dose of a pound per palm now and then again in six weeks. That should help a lot.”
“Well I hope you’re right! Otherwise this could be an expensive loss for the client and a black mark for my colleague in not being able to save them,” I concluded.
“I think you’ll find this will do the trick,” he responded.
“Thanks again, really appreciate your sharing your expert experience!”
“Sure, any time.”

I relayed all this to my colleague. I hope he’ll do it. We’ll see in a week or two if its going to be the right answer to save these valuable palms.

News on the palm’s disease and now a Florida oak problem!

6 June 2014 Idea of the day “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.” John Wooden

Well the results came in from the DNA lab in Ft. Lauderdale. The Canary Island Date palm came back negative for Texas Phoenix Palm Decline. We still don’t know what it is because it’s already been taken down and we have no material to take a second sample. But it was too risky to leave up. The techs said it might also be weevils which are so large they would be easily visible inside the trunk, but we didn’t know to look at the time it was removed. The doctor at the lab was surprised it didn’t come back positive as all the signs were there. There are cases of false negatives, so she recommended a second test but unfortunately the palm was gone. The expensive large palms in the community will have to be closely monitored for symptoms of decline. As I mentioned in a previous post, they can be saved if caught early enough.

The Phoenix dactylifera Medjool palm, shown here,Johnson distressed date
turned out to be POSITIVE for Texas Phoenix Palm Decline (TPPD) way up near Dade City. It’s fatal at this late stage. It’s a large $8000 loss to the owner and it’s a sad scene because another can’t be planted to match the one across from it that gracefully framed his gated entrance. He has about 10 others on property and all are now at risk. We are planning to immediately remove the dead one and then inoculate the others with the Oxytetracyline anti-biotic. The problem is it has to be administered every 4 months for the life of the palms to keep them protected now that the bacterium is in the area. And its not just his date palms that are threatened. The state tree of Florida, the sabal palmetto (colloquially called “cabbage palm”) is also vulnerable to this disease. There are vague reports that even his 40 ft. high Washingtonian palms may be susceptible. This disease has the potential to wipe out a lot of the grand Florida palms that give the state its tropical appearance. Fortunately this owner can afford the anti-biotic applications, has ranch hands whom we can train to do the injections and it should work out. Not every homeowner is so fortunate.

A few months ago I was called down to the downtown Tampa Convention Center where a Medjool date palm had been confirmed for TPPD. Then just yesterday I was driving down the freeway just north of downtown and I saw four or five more stately date palms that looked dead from the same disease. Not good. If you live in the area and know a homeowner with one of these species of palms, let them know. The first thing to look for are the lower fronds starting to excessively brown. The orange flower stalks can be the next thing to turn brown. If the central spearhead leaf at the top goes brown and falls over or the orange flowers go brown, the palm has had it. So the palms have to be tightly monitored. It can all happen in two or three weeks.

Also this week I was called out to a newer development on the southeast side of Tampa. They had something strange happening with their oak trees that two previous arborists thought was from the trees planted too deep.

I arrived and came in the entrance drive and noticed the approximately ten year old laurel oaks lined on both sides of the street with touches of brown leaves at the tips. Hmmm, I thought, most likely is “black twig borer”, a relatively harmless pest that likes Maples and Laurel Oaks in Florida and bores into the tips of these trees but doesn’t go further and the tree gets through it. But that usually happened in late summer and here it was early June. That was the first sign something wasn’t right.

But then I was shocked – an oak further down the line was COMPLETELY DEAD with all its leaves brown. Another one was 75% gone. I had never seen this with black twig borers.

Trees don’t die from just one stress factor. It’s typically three to five of these “stressors” that add up to lower their immune system. The accumulated stress then makes the tree susceptible to something that comes along and becomes the final blow to kill it. The final stressor gets blamed but healthy trees, just like healthy humans, don’t get sick.

I pulled out my spade and clippers. I quickly found four stressors.
1) All of these trees had been planted far too deep. This is one of the worst stresses on a tree as it suffocates the roots. They don’t get the oxygen they need to digest the carbohydrates created by photosynthesis at the leaves. So the tree’s energy gradually depresses. Flare roots should display and be exposed to air, so plant your trees high with this in mind.

2) Even after ten years in the ground I was digging and finding synthetic root ball bags and their straps not deteriorated at all like natural burlap bags do, but biting into the flare roots and choking off water and nutrients that flow through them to get to the upper canopy. A second stressor for sure.

3) The landscapers had “volcanic mulching” going on, with excess soil and mulch pushed up against the trunk of the trees. A horrible practice (even if they think it looks pretty) because it further suffocates the roots, creates a too moist root environment which can lead to root rot, creates nests for insects and rodents (and I was finding ant colonies galore!) which can gnaw at the trunks and creates an environment for root mats to develop which start growing over the support flare roots and girdling and choking them. A third stressor had also been giving these trees a hard time.

4) The species itself should never have been planted here. Laurel oaks are one of the weakest species of oaks in Florida, only live about 50 years in the urban environment and grow fast and brittle creating lots of hazardous dead wood as they get past 30 years old. A stressor of a sort because they don’t heal from break wounds as fast and generally aren’t as strong as a species like a live oak, sycamore, elm, hickory, bald cypress, magnolia, etc. or smaller ornamental that could have been planted here like crape myrtles.

5) I noticed later that in the community itself an additional stressor was being set up by planting these oaks (which get very large when mature) in tiny spaces between the sidewalks and the streets. Not only are their roots going to be constricted by the concrete on both sides but the roots will uplift and damage these surfaces with expense and headaches for the residents for years to come. Builders think they can do it all themselves on the cheap, but when planting trees they need to consult professionals for species that are appropriate to a particular space. They should have hired an arborist or landscape architect. We see this ALL the time in developments. Twenty years later they are calling us because their sidewalks and curbs are cracking!

As I finished noticing all this, I walked back to get a birds-eye view of the problem and was in for ANOTHER shock. My God, some of the laurel oaks (the weakest ones with the most stressors) in the adjacent native woods on both sides of the entrance drive were ALSO showing signs of their leaves turning brown in large volume, not just the tips! This was definitely no minor problem.

I called the owner of the tree company I work with and found out he had found two similarly, mysteriously dead live oaks over near Clearwater a few weeks before. The plot was thickening, not in a pleasant way.

The other arborists hadn’t noticed this. But the trees in the woods obviously didn’t have the stressors of planted too deep, volcano mulching, plastic root bag straps acting like tourniquets around the flare roots and yet they were manifesting the same symptoms. They may have contracted the fungus from underground root contamination or insects. I found the symptoms throughout the community. I wrote up my preliminary report to the property manager and she approved lab testing of samples.

Central Florida hasn’t ever had a serious oak disease problem. Wholesalers could have brought new tree stock in from a farm as far away as Louisiana. Insects can travel far across the Gulf states. Even firewood with a particular fungus can be transported across state lines and then insects transfer them to healthy trees. Texas has had serious Oak Wilt which wipes out entire communities of oaks. Laurel oaks and live oaks are both very susceptible to Oak Wilt. Central Florida’s predominant tree canopy cover are oaks. This could be a real problem.

I snipped off root and leaf and branch samples, put them in collection bags and put them in refrigeration for the night. Early the next morning I shipped them off to the University of Florida plant pathology lab for analysis. Browning from the tips inwards only described Oak Wilt to me but there are a variety of things that attack oaks. It will be very interesting to see what the lab finds out. You may need to know this information to protect your oaks. And of course condo and homeowners associations are very concerned about the expense of such sweeping diseases, not to mention homeowners.

Of course this is an example of why it is always recommended to vary the species you plant in cities so that a single disease problem doesn’t wipe out most of the trees in a neighborhood, city or county like Dutch Elm disease has in northern states. Unfortunately most builder developers have over planted live and laurel oaks in the last thirty years because they “do so well”. Their “easy decision” may end up being a very bad one – it already is causing cracking sidewalks, driveways and streets. But this could be a lot more pervasive.

Come back in a few days or weeks to find out what we’re running into here in Central Florida.

Are your Florida palms in trouble?

May 27, 2014 Idea of the day – “Perhaps we all are part of God, facets of divine spark that resulted when a bored First Source exploded Himself into a spiritual jigsaw puzzle for the fun of it to learn new things. Could the game be putting us back together?!”

Today, following up the property manager’s request to look at a large Canary Island Date palm that wasn’t looking good, I drove up to the entrance of a gated community of million dollar homes and told the guard the address of where I was headed to look at a Homeowners’ Association palm on common grounds.

I knew palms aren’t even trees, more of a grass, and I much preferred working with hardwoods. But since they look a little like trees, people expect arborists to understand how to take care of palms. So we learn the basics and hope we can occasionally help. Because they are so labor intensive to prune (and often full of thorns!) many arborists would rather leave the palm pruning to landscapers.

I have heard that back in the 1980’s and 90’s Disney representatives used to drive around the Tampa Bay area – Clearwater, St. Petersburg and Tampa – looking for large Canary Island Date palms, some say the most majestic palms in the world. Apparently these “palm hunters” would offer homeowners up to $5000 for their Canary Island Dates because they needed them for the landscaping at Disneyworld in Orlando and they were too expensive and/or too rare at the wholesalers. They’re native to the Canary Islands and give a grand, exotic look to any landscape.Canary Island date palm full of dates

Of course today Disneyworld has finished their palm landscaping and the economy has changed. Although that dollar amount still might represent close to the investment that homeowners have in a large Canary Island Date palm over the years, they aren’t in demand at that price any longer. But the species is still grand and majestic when gracing a large front lawn, a city park or in front of a hotel or golf club entrance gate.

Currently there is a different challenge to these prized palms staying in the local landscape. A disease of their species, Phoenix, called Texas Phoenix Palm Decline (TPPD) because it was first spotted in Texas, is moving north through Central Florida attacking the Canary Island and its cousin date palms. The disease kills their flowers and fruits, rots the roots, makes the lower fronds go yellow then brown or fall off and causes the top center spearhead leaf that generates new growth to die and fall over. It’s like the dramatic death of a king in a Shakespearean tragedy.

If you start to see any of these signs in Canary Island date palms in your yard or neighborhood or city, you should have an arborist look at it quickly as there might still be a chance to save it if caught early enough. The sole saving ingredient known at this time is an antibiotic called Oxytetracycline (OTC for short) and if injected into the palm soon enough can catch and kill the bacterium that causes the disease. But it has to be early. Then after that, if you want to save the palm, you have to inject it again on a regular program every 4 months until the day it dies.
It isn’t horribly expensive except for the time an arborist or nursery person has to charge to come out to do it – unless you are up to doing it yourself.

This community I had driven into was the most far north site I had heard of this problem by twenty miles. Previously mid-county had been the northern perimeter for years. It wasn’t a good sign.

As I drove up to the address, I recognized the distressed palm right away. It was a sad sight. The once beautiful, grandiose palm had lost almost all its top middle fronds, its lower fronds and half of the new season’s bright orange flower stalks had already died prematurely and turned brown. It was probably too late to save this one. But there was still work to be done.

If you can’t save your palm that has TPPD, it becomes a potential source of infection to the entire neighborhood and needs to be removed right away. Certain insects suck the infected sap of the palms and then spread it to other Phoenix date palms such as Medjool dates, reclinata, sylvester dates and even the state tree of Florida, the sabal palmetto whose common name is “cabbage palm”. There is concern this disease could dramatically damage the familiar traditional look of the semi-tropical Florida landscape.

So it becomes important to identify quickly whether it is TPPD or not. Since the disease is carried by a bacterium without a cell wall, it can’t be cultured, and the only way it can be identified is through a DNA test of some of its core fiber.

I had brought my handy mobile drill and charged batteries with me for just such a possibility. I also had a grill lighter which I clicked on and ran over the large 5/16″ drill bit to sterilize it so the palm’s DNA wouldn’t be contaminated. After squirting some water on it to cool it off, I went to the rear of the palm down low where drilled holes wouldn’t be seen as much if the palm could be saved. I drilled a deep hole with my foot long bit, first hitting the outer dead bark, then the sap filled inner bark that seeped with its water. That layer transports the water and minerals to the palm and its fronds. I kept going and felt it give as I reached the softer, inner fiber core. After going in 12″ or so, and still keeping the drill running, I drew it back out slowly. With one hand I placed a zip lock freezer bag under the hole to catch the bright yellow-white core fiber shavings in the bag.

I did this over and over until suddenly the drill stopped working and I was stuck deep in the palm, unable to pull the bit out! I checked the charge-light button and sure enough, the battery was already dead. At first I was momentarily worried. I had just bought this nice drill bit and I didn’t want to lose it stuck in a palm. It definitely didn’t budge when I tried to pull it out, even with a vice grip!

Fortunately I then remembered I had a spare second battery, so having unlocked the bit from the drill brace, I attached the second battery to the drill, locked the drill back to the bit, turned it on and pulled it out with more core shavings to add to the bag. I stayed alert not to touch any of the shavings as that could contaminate the sample with my own DNA.

I zipped the bag closed, happy with my little sample, enough to fill an old 35 mm film canister. To keep it cool until I could ship it, I put it in the ice chest I had brought along. I drove down to the Fedex outlet right away because the sample had to be overnighted that evening to the DNA lab in Ft. Lauderdale to be a good sample.

I sent it off with descriptive notes to my friend at the lab, Dr. Elliott. In about 7 to 10 days I’ll know if this entire community’s date palms and sabal palms are in danger of being fatally infected. This was a big deal and I was the only one monitoring it for the entire community of maybe one hundred half-million to multi-million dollar homes. I felt a little like Paul Revere to be, except on an iron steed. 🙂