1. Archive

Spanish moss is not a killer

Question: Would you please advise me as to the damage to trees by Spanish moss. I have heard two schools of thought and would appreciate receiving authentic information. Betty Rice, Dunedin

Answer: The controversy over Spanish moss continues despite numerous attempts in this column and elsewhere to lay it to rest. Here's the bottom line. Spanish moss is not a parasitic plant. Unlike mistletoe, which sinks its roots into trees and feeds upon them, Spanish moss simply attaches itself to plants and derives nourishment from the air.

That explains why it thrives equally well on telephone lines and wire fences. Very heavy amounts of Spanish moss can break the limbs of weak-wooded trees, but there is nothing more majestic, in my southern opinion, then a big, sprawling live oak tree draped with Spanish moss.

It's not the

trees' fault

Question: Do palm trees generate a prolific amount of palmetto bugs? Our homeowners' association has banned further palm plantings because of this problem. Bill Scheiblein, New Port Richey

Answer: Palmetto bug is the name many people attach to any roach they encounter. The true palmetto bug is actually the Florida woods roach, a fat, lumbering roach that gives off an offensive odor when disturbed. This Florida native occasionally wanders off-course into homes, but it greatly prefers the outdoors.

It will not reproduce indoors like the imported German cockroach and some of the other roaches that become true household problems. At any rate, banning palm trees will not control palmetto bugs or any other kind of roach. The outdoor roaches will live happily anywhere there is moist cover (i.e. plants, mulch, etc.), and the indoor roaches will gain footholds wherever there is an adequate food supply.


shady here

Question: I have a problem with my queen sago. The fronds are green and healthy, but the fronds keep dropping. They snap off where the base of the frond attaches to the trunk. I have tried palm food, but to no avail. Martha Styvessant, Clearwater

Answer: This problem is usually associated with palms and cycads that are growing in shaded locations and/or are receiving too much nitrogen fertilizer. The fronds become too succulent and brittle and break off easily.

You can't remedy the shade problem without transplanting the sago, but perhaps you can adjust your fertilizing. Select a fertilizer that is low in nitrogen (the first number on the bag) and higher in phosphorus and potash _ the second and third numbers on the bag).

Sydney Park Brown is an urban horticultural specialist with the Hillsborough County Extension Service. Send written questions to her in care of the Extension Service, 5339 State Road 579, Seffner, Fla. 33584.