From Our Landscape Architect:
by Janielle Guzinski
I recently looked out a second story window at Tom's Thumb and noticed that something was wrong with the queen palm outside. I had never seen anything quite like it, so I dragged Peggy upstairs to look at the palm with me. She immediately said that it was "frizzletop" or Manganese deficiency. I had never seen a palm so blatantly deformed from a deficiency before. Suffice to say, I set to work treating the palm that same day. Then I saw it out on a jobsite the next week. And then I got called out to consult for a sick palm and it was "frizzletop" again. Now I'm seeing it at least once a week as I drive around town for our landscaping jobs. It turns out that queen palms are especially susceptible and many are in the middle of a Manganese deficiency right now.
What is "frizzletop"?
"Frizzletop" is a descripton of the deformity that happens in palms where the new growth is stunted and frizzled looking. In a worst case scenario, the palm tree produces new fronds with only the center stick and no actual leaf surface. This is when the deficiency can become fatal. Manganese deficiency occurs when there is a lack of Manganese in the soil that they palm can access. Unfortunately for Galveston, we don't hold onto nutrients well because our sandy soil drains so well and Manganese is not very soluble at high pH. That means in areas with more basic or alkaline soil, like most of Galveston, what Manganese exists is not in a form that the palms can soak up.
Palms have different nutrient requirements from most other landscape plants. We think of fertilizers as containing Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P), and Potassium (K). However palms fertilizer has several other ingredients that may only be needed in minor amounts by other plants but are important nutrients for palms. This includes Boron, Magnesium, and, importantly for this article and our queen palms, Manganese. Palm fertilizer, both in granular form and in the fertilizer spikes that we sell, is specially formulated to contain all that a palm tree could need. However, if you haven't fertilized your palms recently, or ever, they may develop certain deficiencies and need specific treatment, like Manganese fertilizer spikes to correct "frizzletop". It may take a couple of rounds of new growth to completely erase the damage done by Manganese deficiency, but it is easy treatable and the palms should recover without problems.