About this Palm Resource

About the Resource | image of Phoenix Canariensis


The idea to develop a commodity-based identification resource came from numerous suggestions by USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Plant Protection and Quarantine (USDA APHIS PPQ) and the Cooperative Agricultural Pest Survey (CAPS) National Committee. CAPS is a combined effort by Federal and State agricultural organizations to conduct surveillance, detection, and monitoring of agricultural plant pests and diseases. Over the years, PPQ and CAPS field surveys to detect pests and diseases have shifted from single pest- and disease-based to commodity-based. Commodity surveys require surveyors to search for a complex of pests and diseases on a given commodity at the same time and are intended to provide a more holistic, ecosystem-based framework for regulatory decisions. In 2008, USDA’s Center for Plant Health Science and Technology (USDA APHIS PQ CPHST) made the decision to develop a prototype identification resource for PPQ and CAPS to determine whether a commodity-based format would increase the efficiency and effectiveness of commodity-based survey and detection processes.

A commodity-based identification resource provides keys and assorted reference material to support the screening and potentially the identification and diagnosis of often diverse groups of pests and diseases associated with one specific trade product. Due to CPHST‘s previous collaborations with nationally recognized palm pest and disease experts, cultivated palms were chosen as the commodity for the prototype resource. These experts had the necessary interest and commitment to deliver such a resource to PPQ, CAPS, the industry, and the growers. Off-shore, port, and trade personnel involved with the detection of pests and diseases of cultivated palms offered their support for the project as well.

For the numerous identification keys in the resource, CPHST chose a matrix-based, interactive, electronic format. Matrix keys, unlike traditional pathway (i.e., dichotomous) keys, are media-rich and allow users considerable flexibility in the choice of characters. Lucid3 software, developed by the Centre for Biological Information Technology (University of Queensland), was selected since it is the most widely used matrix key-building software, both nationally and internationally. Written in Java, Lucid3 is a cross-platform implementation that will run on any Java-enabled operating system without the need of additional software. A wealth of media, such as fact sheets, drawings, photographs, and videos, can be attached to the characters and taxa in Lucid keys, facilitating and enhancing the identification process. Moreover, a Lucid key can be presented as an integral component of a comprehensive web site, such as a site about a particular genus or a specific commodity.

During the planning stages, CPHST decided that the resource would include numerous internet-based Lucid tools to support pest, disease, disorder, and host screening. A Lucid tool is defined here as a website containing one or more interactive Lucid keys based on a specific taxon or related taxa, along with a home page and other supplementary pages not directly attached to the matrix key (e.g., glossary, references). The palm resource includes two types of Lucid tools: 1) a symptom-based tool to support field screening/identification/diagnosis of pests, diseases, and physiological disorders based on the visible symptoms they cause and 2) taxon-based tools to support the screening/identification/diagnosis of pests within a particular group of organisms.

Four workshops were held between 2008 and 2010 to plan, develop, and design the resource and its associated tools. The developers for each Lucid tool were provided with training in Lucid key development. Specific terms to enhance communication among the resource developers were defined at the early workshops. Future clients of the palm resource attended several of the workshops to ensure that the resource and each of its tools would be scoped and designed to provide appropriate survey and identification support for the PPQ and CAPS communities, as well as for growers, the nursery industry, and trading partners.

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About the Resource | image of palm leaves

Clients for the Palm Resource

The resource and its associated tools support use by three major groups of clients. Additional end-users not listed below will likely also benefit from the resource.

Primary clients

  • Cooperative Agriculture Pest Survey (CAPS)
  • National Plant Diagnostic Network (NPDN)
  • Other national, regional, and state agricultural agencies/organizations with responsibilities associated with pest and disease survey and detection

Secondary clients

  • USDA International Services (IS)
  • DHS Customs and Border Protection (CBP)
  • Caribbean agencies involved with plant protection and quarantine
  • Nurseries

Other groups that could benefit from the resource

  • USDA APHIS Professional Development Center (PDC)
  • Land grant colleges and universities
  • Growers
  • Horticulturists

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About the Resource | image of royal palms

Lucid Tools Associated with the Palm Resource

A Resource for Pests and Diseases of Cultivated Palms provides links to five Lucid tools (see below). Each tool will also be linked back to the resource to allow convenient access. Each tool can, however, stand on its own for those users with more specific needs.

  • Identifying Commonly Cultivated Palms
  • Screening Aid to Palm Pests
  • Hispine Pests of Palms
  • Palm Scale Insect Screening Tool
  • Symptoms of Palm Diseases and Disorders

Stay informed on new tools being added to the resource by visiting the resource update page. Any individual interested in developing an additional Lucid tool to support the purpose of this resource should contact Amanda Redford (email amanda.j.redford@aphis.usda.gov).

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About the Resource | image of palm

Identifying Commonly Cultivated Palms

The ability to identify a palm host is an important aid to pest and disease identification. Identifying Commonly Cultivated Palms includes both native and exotic palm species cultivated in the landscape, in nurseries, and as potted plants. Although the tool is based on cultivated palm species in the U.S. and Caribbean, the majority of the species are under cultivation throughout the world, so this tool may also be valued as a reference for other countries.

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About the Resource | image of Nypa infructescence

Screening Aid for Palm Pests: Support for Novice Entomologists

Screening Aid to Pests (SAP) was specifically developed for those users who have little or no entomology background. Such users may only be interested in identifying a specimen to an upper taxonomic rank such as family. This tool provides identification support for palm pests to order, family, and in some cases to species. As genus/species tools to higher-level taxa included in SAP are released, they will be linked to the appropriate taxa within the SAP Lucid key to allow users to further identify a specimen to genus and/or species. Separate Lucid tools to species of Lepidoptera, Thysanoptera, and the hemipteran suborders Auchenorrhyncha and Heteroptera are not included in the resource since these taxa do not include enough palm pests to warrant their own tools. Therefore, the Screening Aid to Pests covers these species. Termites (order Isoptera) are also included in SAP since a number of the identifiers and extension personnel have received specimens of this group to identify. Individuals often believe the specimen was the cause of death of a palm, when in fact, termites usually move into a palm stem after it has died from other causes. However, in Hawaii, termites are becoming a more significant secondary pest of palms, and are often considered the culprit in the death of the plant. The taxa included in SAP are shown below. The key helps the user with identifying the order of the pest, and then offers the ability to identify to a lower rank, such as family, genus, or species. SAP also provides a second key to identify beetle, moth, and butterfly larvae because these are the insects for which the larval stages are the most likely to be collected and/or are the most likely culprit of damage to the palm.

Taxa included in the Screening Aid to Pests

Beetles [Order Coleoptera]; adults and larvae Giant palm borer [Dinapate wrightii] Leaf beetles [Family Chrysomelidae] Rhinoceros beetles [Oryctes spp.] Weevils [Family Curculionidae] Ambrosia beetles [Family Curculionidae, Subfamilies Platypodinae and Scolytinae]

Bugs [Order Hemiptera] Aphids, scales, whiteflies [Suborder Sternorrhyncha] Palm aphids [Cerataphis spp.] Armored scales [Family Diaspididae] Citrus orthezia [Praelongorthezia praelonga] Cottony cushion scale [Icerya purchasi] Lobate lac scale [Paratachardina pseudolobata] Mealybugs [Family Pseudococcidae] Red date scale [Phoenicococcus marlatti] Soft scales [Family Coccidae] Whiteflies [Family Aleyrodidae] Hoppers [Suborder Auchenorrhyncha] American palm cixiid [Myndus crudus] Flatid planthopper [Ormenaria rufifascia] Idioderma hopper [Idioderma virescens] Derbid planthoppers [Family Derbidae] True bugs [Suborder Heteroptera] Royal palm bug [Xylastodoris luteolus]
Mites [Order Acari] Moths & butterflies [Order Lepidoptera]; adults and larvae Banana moth [Opogona sacchari] Cabbage palm caterpillar [Litoprosopus futilis] Io moth [Automeris io] Monk skipper [Asbolis capucinus] Nettle caterpillar [Darna pallivitta] Palm leaf skeletonizer [Homaledra sabalella] Saddleback caterpillar [Acharia stimulea] South American palm borer [Paysandisia archon] Termites [Order Isoptera] Thrips [Order Thysanoptera] Greenhouse thrips [Heliothrips haemorrhoidalis] Parlour palm thrips [Parthenothrips dracaenae]

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About the Resource | image of palm trees

Scope of the Resource

The resource was designed and developed as a screening aid to support survey and detection. The resource’s tools provide users with support for detecting and recognizing common pests and diseases associated with cultivated palms as well as suspected species of concern. If you suspect that you have detected a species of concern, you should submit the sample for verification to a local diagnostic laboratory or contact your local state department of agriculture.

The resource’s taxon-based tools provide identification support for currently known cultivated palm pests in the U.S. and Caribbean, as well as potential pests of concern to the U.S. and Caribbean. A palm pest is defined here as any native or exotic arthropod taxon at any life stage that can directly or indirectly injure, cause disease, or damage any plant, plant part, or product. The resource’s symptomatic tool provides identification support for currently known diseases and disorders of cultivated palms in the U.S. and Caribbean, as well as potential diseases of concern to the U.S. and Caribbean. A palm disease is the result of a dynamic, detrimental relationship with a transmissible organism that interferes with the normal processes of the plant's cells or tissue. The organism that incites or causes the disease process with the host is called a pathogen, and may be a bacterium [including Mollicutes (phytoplasmas and spiroplasmas)], protozoan, fungus, nematode, or virus. Palm disorders, including environmental sensitivity, nutritional deficiency, stress, and physical injury, are considered disorders rather than diseases because they are caused by environmental conditions rather than by transmissible pathogens.

The resource does not include identification support for non-pests, such as beneficial insects, pollinators, or incidental insects. The single exception to this is the Beetle Screening Tool, which includes weevil pollinator species in addition to pest species. Snails and slugs (Gastropoda) are not dealt with within the resource since this group is typically not considered a pest of palms. The resource does not include a pest screening tool to nematodes, though the symptomatic tool does include the causal agent of red ring disease, the most serious nematode-caused disease in palms.

Life Stage

Except for Screening Aid to Pests, all of the pest-based Lucid tools include a key to the adult stages of their associated taxa. In addition to a key to the adult stages of palm pests, Screening Aid to Pests includes a key to the larval stages for beetles and moths/butterflies.

Geographical Coverage

The palm resource provides screening and identification support for cultivated palms and their pests, diseases, and disorders known to occur, as of 2010, in the United States (continental U.S. and Hawaii) and Caribbean Islands (Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, Bahamas, Barbados, Cayman Islands, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Jamaica, Martinique, Montserrat, Netherlands Antilles, Puerto Rico, Saint Barts, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Martin, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos Islands, Virgin Islands). The resource also includes support for pests and diseases of immediate concern to cultivated palms in the United States and Caribbean – essentially those species that will likely move to this region in the very near future.

About the Resource | image of palm leaves Resolution Requirements

The resource is primarily a screening aid, meaning it is targeted to non-experts and can be used for training on palm pests, diseases, and disorders. This objective limits the level of difficulty for features (characters) and therefore, often, the taxon ranks used in the keys. The majority of key features used for identifying a pest can be seen with the naked eye, a hand lens, or a dissecting microscope. These keys are referred to in this resource as “macroscopic keys.” In some cases, the macroscopic keys cannot lead to identification or verification to species. However, these keys will provide sufficient information to determine whether action should be taken for the pest or disease and whether it should be forwarded to a specialist for further identification. “Microscopic keys,” which require the use of a compound microscope (>20x magnification), are being developed for some pest groups to support species level identification. See each tool for further information on resolution requirements.

Degree of Identification – Ability to Detect, Screen, and Identify

Identifying Commonly Cultivated Palms supports users that may only have a portion of a complete representative sample of a plant. This tool allows users to identify many specimens to species, though this is not possible in all cases, as many palms are capable of hybridizing.

Screening Aid to Pests (SAP) provides identification support to the novice entomologist, using only the naked eye, a hand lens, or a dissection scope, of a palm pest to order, family, and in some cases to species. SAP includes species for the orders and families for which there are only a few pest representatives on palms (moths/butterflies, hoppers, and true bugs) and/or that can be easily identified using the above criteria.

Symptoms of Diseases and Disorders supports field diagnosis based on symptoms from living plants without the need for laboratory pathogen diagnosis. Since damage due to diseases or nutritional deficiencies may result in the death of a plant, early detection using symptoms may allow control measures to be performed before the plant is lost (Gitau et al., 2009).

Palm Scale Insect Screening Tool provides identification support for field screening and identification of scale and mealybug pests of palms. The field characters used in the key for this tools may not always allow identification to species due to the size of the organisms in question.

Hispine Pests of Palms focuses on leaf beetles (Chrysomelidae), specifically hispines, offering fact sheets and images for this important group of palm pests.

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Numerous agencies, institutions, organizations, and individuals provided support with various aspects of the initiation, development, and deployment of A Resource for Pests and Diseases of Cultivated Palms. USDA APHIS PPQ CPHST Identification Technology Program (ITP) Team, the coordinators of the resource, would like to specifically acknowledge the following institutions and organizations for their commitment to seeing the resource through from concept to delivery: Center for Biological Control, Florida A&M University; Fort Lauderdale Research & Education Center, University of Florida; Department of Entomology and Nematology, University of Florida; Division of Plant Industry, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services; Institution of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida; Southern Plant Diagnostic Network (SPDN); and National Plant Diagnostic Network (NPDN).

Florida A&M University, University of Florida, and Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services kindly provided venues and hosting coordination for workshops to initiate and develop the resource and its associated tools. ITP appreciated these institutions’ commitment to ensuring the success of each of the workshops.

ITP would like to thank Dan Fieselmann, Gordon Gordh, Richard Zink, Phil Berger, John Bowers, Matt Royer, Kristian Rondeau, and Brian Kopper for their encouragement and support for the development of this prototype commodity-based resource for USDA APHIS PPQ (Plant Protection and Quarantine) and PPQ’s cooperators and collaborators, including the CAPS (Cooperative Agricultural Pest Survey) community.

Special thanks to Mathew Taylor and Damian Barnier of the Centre for Biological Information Technology (CBIT) for their patience with numerous and often urgent questions and requests and particularly for their consistently helpful and informative answers during development of the resource.

The resource coordinators would like to acknowledge George Venable for development of the first mock-up for the resource and Mary Andrews who provided an array of wonderful palm images for us to use.

Lastly, CPHST ITP would like to thank all of the developers associated with A Resource for Pests and Diseases of Cultivated Palms. We were extremely fortunate to have nationally recognized experts in palm horticulture, pathology, and pests as part of the resource team.

Numerous agencies, institutions, organizations and individuals have provided support to each tool developer. Please refer to each tool’s acknowledgement page to learn about other groups and individuals that provided support, material, and reviews for the resource.

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Citation, Copyright, and Disclaimers

Citation Recommendations

Suggested Citation for Palm Resource

Walters, T.W., A. J. Redford, M. D. Trice, J. L. Scher, and A. C. Hodges. 2010. A Resource for Pests and Diseases of Cultivated Palms. Identification Technology Program, CPHST, PPQ, APHIS, USDA; Fort Collins, Colorado. [date you accessed the site] <http://itp.lucidcentral.org/id/palms/resource/>

Suggested Citation for a Resource Tool

(also see individual tool recommendations for suggested citation)

[developers]. [year]. [tool title]. In A Resource for Pests and Diseases of Cultivated Palms. Identification Technology Program, CPHST, PPQ, APHIS, USDA; Fort Collins, Colorado. [date you accessed the site] <url address>

Copyright & Disclaimer

A Resource for Pests and Diseases of Cultivated Palms (PDP) was published by the USDA APHIS PPQ Center for Plant Health Science and Technology (CPHST). CPHST is the scientific support organization for the Plant Protection and Quarantine (PPQ) division of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Most of the content in PDP is a work of the U.S. Government and is in the public domain. Public domain information may be freely distributed or copied, but it is requested that appropriate acknowledgement be given when distributing or copying any part of the PDP website. See above for appropriate citation.

Prior to distributing or copying any information within PDP individual tools, clients should review the tool’s copyright page describing the developer’s requirements for the use of images within their tool. Not all materials in PDP or its associated tools are in the public domain. Some images (photographs and drawings) that were obtained from individuals or organizations may be protected by copyright. The origin of these images has been indicated in the tool’s image captions or on the tool’s acknowledgement page. You may need to obtain permission from the copyright holder to use, reproduce, or distribute these images.

While the coordinators and developers have made every effort to provide accurate information in PDP, the coordinators and developers and their agencies, institutions, and organizations specifically disclaim all legal liability with respect to the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any information contained in the resource and its associated tools. The coordinators, developers, and associated agencies, institutions, and organizations shall assume no legal liability for any damages, including direct, indirect, consequential, compensatory, special punitive, or incidental damages arising from or relating to the use of PDP and its associated tools or the information and material provided by or linked from PDP and its tools.

Some web pages in the resource and associated tools provide links to Internet sites for the convenience of the resource’s clients. The resource coordinators and tool developers, and their associated agencies, institutions, and organizations are not responsible for the availability or content of these external sites, nor do these individuals, agencies, institutions, and organizations endorse or warrant the products, services, or information described or offered by these Internet sites.

This page must be taken into consideration with other similar pages contained within each PDP tool concerning copyright and disclaimers when copying or distribution information from a specific PDP tool.

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Contact and Developers


For general information concerning A Resource for Pests and Diseases of Cultivated Palms and its various identification tools, and to offer any feedback or comments, please contact Amanda Redford (amanda.j.redford@aphis.usda.gov), ITP Tool Developer.

For specific tool-related questions or information, refer to each tool for author contact information.


Resource Developers and Coordinators

Tool Developers

Mite Screening Tool (cancelled)
Scale Insect Screening Tool
Beetle Screening Tool (cancelled)
Hispine Pests of Palms
Symptoms of Diseases and Disorders
Identifying Commonly Culivated Palms
Screening Aid to Pests

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