What's up with all the dead palms?

From the towering palms at Pensacola International Airport to backyard cabbage palms, the legacy of this winter's unprecedented freeze in early January left hundreds and hundreds of damaged or dead palm trees.

The harsh cold, which saw temperatures in the teen for an extended period, took a toll on plant life in the area, but palm trees in particular have suffered, leaving folks wondering whether they will come back if pruned or whether they should be removed.

"A lot of the palm trees that you see in the area are not recommended for the zone that we're in," said Carol Lord, an environmental horticultural technician at Escambia County Extension. "So they may not come back."

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has a Hardiness Zone Map that provides information that helps gardeners determine what plants will grow in their area.

Before planting a palm tree, it is important to make sure that it can tolerate the local winter temperatures. For example, certain palms are only able to survive a maximum low of 30 degrees.

Pensacola is in Zone 9, which means that palms that are planted in the area should be able to withstand a minimum of 20 degrees.

Indications of the cold damage on a palm might be wilting, crown flopping because of internal trunk rot, soft lesions on outside of the trunk or new emerged leaves falling down around the trunk.

Bryan Calderon of Bryan's Lawn Maintenance in Pensacola said that whether or not a palm tree will recuperate after a cold snap depends on the type of palm.

"Some palm trees, like sables, are hardy and can recuperate on their own," Calderon said. "Root stimulator can help. If the crown or the inside growth is dead, then the tree should be replaced."

Calderon recommends planting palms near other plants and covering all palm trees during cold spells in the future, especially if a frost warning is issued for multiple days.

Experts also say it can take up to a year for a cold-damaged palm to recover, so don't give up hope.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Hardiness Zone Map and tips about whether to prune damaged palm can be found at www.florida-palm-trees. com.