Sago Palm Distress-- Brown Fungus?

biscuitsSeptember 1, 2008

I have a potted sago palm that I bought about two months ago. This is my first plant ever-- I am completely new to gardening. It sits by my office window, getting afternoon sun, and is in a comfortable temperature all the time. Right after I bought it, I repotted it in a pot 2" diameter bigger than the pot in came in. I water it every 1.5-2 weeks or so and let the soil dry completely before the next drink.

About a month ago, certain fronds starting getting some yellow spots, which would gradually turn tan and dead (dried-out looking). Eventually, some fronds would die at the ends and the tan, dried-out part would work its way to the frond's stem. I tried not to panic, since it is clearly not white scale, but after researching online, I thought maybe it was the beginning of frizzle top or a manganese deficiency, so I went to the nursery where I bought my sago to purchase some palm food.

One of the nursery employees was treating a palm with yellow patches similar to what mine looked like, and he recommended an all-purpose food. He said he believed it was a fungus and that I should remove all affected fronds.

I came back to my office, gave the plant food to my sago, and then sat down to carefully remove each affected frond. To my horror, I discovered that a great majority of the fronds were affected-- at least with the earliest stage of having some VERY tiny yellow spots, although they looked healthy and the dying out had not started. I cut them off, making my poor sago look totally ragged.

While cutting, I observed that the brownish fuzz I thought was part of the sago's branches was, in fact, something that rubbed off. It is now clear that this brownish, fuzzyish, fluffyish, moldish-type stuff is covering the head of my sago, and then creeping up the branches. Now I am pretty panicked about my new plant! Is this a fungus? The "fuzz" can be rubbed off the branches using a damp cloth, and I have tried gently scraping it off of the head of the sago using the tines of a plastic fork.

Should I be scraping this off of my plant? Buying a fungicide? Is this normal? I have no idea what to think. Please help!

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Not a very good indoor plant.You might want to keep it outdoors as much as possible. I'm not sure if that is a pest or fungus but you can buy a product that does both at your local home depot.If the problem with the yellow spots are the newest leafs then you might have a nutritional problem as well. Here I have a problem with manganese deficiency and I have to add extra to my fertilizer. Hopefully the man from cycad jungle will chime in for more and probably better advise then me.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2008 at 7:19AM
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Usually Sagos (Cycas revoluta) that are found in typical nurseries are grown in poor soil mixes, which inevitably leads to weak or dead roots. After roots deteriorate, the potential for rot setting in increases.

I would take the entire plant out of the pot, inspect the roots and if there is rot you have to remove all infected tissue and treat it appropriately. Do a search on the internet for articles that describe treating cycad rot. I can provide some links if you need them.

You will need a new potting mix and time for the plant to recover. If the rot has spread into the crown of the caudex, that is an ominous sign. Hopefully that's not the case. Good luck.


    Bookmark   September 2, 2008 at 10:58AM
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Thank you very much for your insights. I think I am going to haul this HEAVY plant home for some TLC-- it looks and sounds as though something is very wrong. Would it hurt the plant if I tried a fungicide/pesticide? I'm a little intimidated by the root rot issue, although if that is the problem then I guess I will need to learn about it . . .

    Bookmark   September 2, 2008 at 11:47AM
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Can you post a pic ? That would help to identify the problem.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2008 at 1:18PM
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Trying a pesticide/ fungicide should be the last resort only after you have no idea what is going on. If you can correctly diagnose the problem, you can treat it effectively. Dumping chemicals, even if they work, does not help because you don't know how to improve things so problems don't arise in the future.

Some info can be found here
Additional reading right here

It's a lot of info. Try and familiarize yourself with some basic concepts and do what is best. Come back here for more help when you're ready.


    Bookmark   September 2, 2008 at 6:07PM
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There are safe ones if you just look for them. I never mentioned the word pesticide at all by the way.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2008 at 9:21PM
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Okay, I tried to post the pics with HTML. Hope this works. As a back up, I put a photo link in the Optional Link URL box.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   September 2, 2008 at 9:41PM
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Your plant looks perfectly healthy in these photos. The fuzz is a normal part of cycad anatomy.

When there is rot, one of the signs is that the leaves become flimsy and bend at the hinges. Yours appear firm and upright.

Being new to gardening, you should learn and read as much as you can. Welcome aboard.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2008 at 10:00PM
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I had to get my husband's help with the photos, but I wanted to make a few notes about them:
1. you can see the "clouds" of fluff that accumulated once I tried to scrape/wipe the stuff off.
2. the photos are kind of bright-- the fluff is actually more of a medium brown color than it appears, and there is a thin film of the fluff covering most of the caudex (I'm learning new terms!) and especially in the crevices of the scales.
3. Although with the photos all enlarged you would think otherwise, the stuff really isn't THAT easy to detect until you rub some of it off, and the caudex (under the fluff) is super-firm and the branches are still deep green and very spiky-- no wilting (except for the patches of fronds that I have cut off). Also, no black spots anywhere, which is what most of the rot pictures I could find looked like.
I've been on every website I could find (and thank you for the links-- very informative), but I couldn't find a description of this stuff or any pictures of plants that look like mine does, so I'm having trouble diagnosing the problem. Does it look like rot? I'm stumped.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2008 at 10:04PM
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I just bought me a sago palm 8 fl oz in IKEA last weekend that had 3 fronds but its in perfect health anyways your sago is all right and in fine shape. I am a newbie too.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2008 at 10:42PM
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Well, OK, GREAT news! So glad I didn't rush off and yell at the nursery folks for selling me a sick plant.

I guess I should leave the fuzz alone and not worry about the yellow-spotting fronds (which may not come back now that I have fed my plant) unless they return. I really appreciate everyone's input! Thanks for the education.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2008 at 9:35PM
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yellow spotting can also be from mechanical insult

we recently had a hail storm and my revoluta developed a bunch of yellow spots on the leaves afterwards. it kind of ruined the perfectly glossy leaves but luckily they will be replaced in time

    Bookmark   September 3, 2008 at 10:18PM
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My dad has 2 beautiful palms and as i was gardening at his house today, i noticed the brownish fluff this other lady is speaking of. I cannot find out any information about this either. One of his palms has it and the other one does not. Help!! what is it? I tried to scrape it off and it does come off, but it is like fuzz. It is the strangest thing. Does this mean the plant is sick, because as i said the other plant does not have it and they are basically 10 feet away from eachother.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2011 at 8:40PM
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I am seeing the posting from biscuits.. but not the replys.. I see coleen humes ask the same question... Can you please share the answer with me.. I have hunted and hunted.. and this is the only site I have found anything about it.. My sego was part of a larger sego I have in my yard.. we removed the pup (2-3 years in age) and put it into a container.. today I noticed the brownish fluff you all are speaking of.. Do I need to worry about this?

    Bookmark   July 4, 2011 at 11:39AM
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