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News and Events


Plant a Palm

Fig. 1 Triangle Palm

Palms provide that tropical look to the landscape while adding to your property value. Most palms are well adapted to our soils and require minimum care to establish and maintain. Factors to consider when selecting a palm include eventual mature size, single or multi trunked and feather or fan shaped fronds. Palms can be planted year round, though palms establish faster and with fewer problems during summer. Many palms suffer from being planted too deeply. This essentially suffocates the roots, inviting nutritional disorders, provoking insect damage and root disease. It is important to water a newly planted palm for the first several months. Support large palms with braces against the trunk for the first six months to prevent swaying during strong winds. Nails should never be used to attach braces to the trunk of palms. For more information on selecting a palm for your landscape read University of Florida publication Ornamental Palms or call the Palm Beach County Cooperative Extension Service Master Gardener Volunteer Hotline at 561-233-1700.


Loblolly Bay- A Florida Native Tree

Fig. 1 Loblolly bay flower

Residents are planting more native trees, shrubs and ground covers into their home landscape. Florida native plants can withstand the stresses of South Florida temperatures, rainfall, insects and diseases. The right native plant,  planted into the right location often require less maintenance than other introduced exotic plants. Properly selected and planted native species require less irrigation and fertilizers. Birds and other wildlife utilize many of the native plants for nesting, food and shelter.
Loblolly Bay is a beautiful white flowering native Florida tree. This tree has evergreen lustrous green leaves that drop irregularly throughout the year, turning bright red sometime before they fall off. The scientific name for this tree is Gordonia lasianthus.  Loblolly bay has showy, fragrant white flowers with golden yellow stamens. These flowers open in succession over an extended summer season and even young trees produce many flowers. This upright growing tree can attain a large size, but frequently does not exceed the dimensions of a large shrub. Loblolly bay is hardy and does best in a moist or irrigated landscape area. Loblolly bay is not a widely planted tree, but can be a great tree choice. For information on the right tree for the right place contact the Palm Beach County Cooperative Extension Service Master Gardener volunteer hotline at 233-1750.


"Before You Tie The Knot" Marriage Preparation Class

Before You Tie the Knot (BYTK) is a research-based premarital education program designed to offer constructive guidance to couples as they begin their lives as a married couple. The program aims to help couples understand that it takes both partners working together to make a marriage successful. The BYTK premarital educational program, including activity workbook, focuses on helping premarital couples to: recognize their own and their partner's needs, parent positively, negotiate conflict successfully, communicate effectively, manage money skillfully, and develop and maintain healthy lifestyles.

Upon completion of this course, couples in participating counties will receive a certificate of completion, which allows them to waive the 3-day waiting period and get a $27.50 discount on the marriage license fee.

Learn more and enroll in this class

Chocolate - The Cocoa Tree

Fig. 1 Chocolate Bean tree pods in
Mounts Botanical Garden
Our ever increasing warm tropical climate is helping gardeners to grow Cocoa, the chocolate bean tree. Cocoa-(Theobroma cacao) is an ancient crop, grown and harvested for thousands of years by native Central and South Americans. Cocoa trees can grow up to 25 ft and must be planted into a partially shaded area for best growth and fruit production. These trees prefer year round temperatures above 68˚F and never below 40˚F. Cocoa trees have attractive glossy green leaves and striking pods (fruit). Growing in well protected landscapes, and they make distinctive, fascinating, challenging, and enjoyable additions to the home garden. You can see a beautiful Cocoa- chocolate bean tree in the Mounts Botanical Garden 531 North Military Trail West Palm Beach, open 7 days a week 10-4, closed all observed holidays. If you have a question on growing cocoa, call the Palm Beach County Cooperative Extension Service Master Gardener volunteer hotline at 233-1750, or email your plant question to



Our State Butterfly - Zebra Longwing

Fig. 1 Zebra Longwing Butterfly

Florida is home for more than 180 species of butterflies. Our state butterfly is the Zebra Longwing (Heliconius charitonius). Zebra butterflies frequent home butterfly gardens and suburban yards and parks.  These butterflies have a relatively long lifespan, living many months due to their diet of both nectar and pollen. Butterflies have four life stages: egg, caterpillar, chrysalis and adult. Zebra longwings are medium-sized butterflies with extended wings. The upper surface of the wings is black with bright, yellow stripes.
To attract the Zebra longwings to your garden, plant a passionvine (Passiflora incarnata) or a (Passiflora suberosa) on a trellis or along a chain-link fence, on which the adult butterflies will lay their eggs and which the caterpillars of the Zebra longwing will feed upon. Remember that these plants ultimately will be chewed upon if you are a successful butterfly gardener. Plant our native firebush (Hamelia patens) which will provide plenty of nectar for the adult Zebra longwings.
To see the Mounts Botanical Garden Butterfly demonstration garden at the Palm Beach County Cooperative Extension Service stop by 531 North Military Trail West Palm Monday-Sunday 10AM-4PM. For more information visit


Fig. 2 Palm Beach County Master Gardener Volunteers
Julia Renninger and Butch Farrell maintaining
the Mounts Botanical Garden Butterfly Demonstration








Valuable Mangroves

Fig. 1 Red Mangrove - Mounts Botanical Garden
Mangroves play an extremely important role in maintaining the quality and productivity of coastal waters. However, development along Florida’s coastline often has reduced the area occupied by mangroves. Mangroves occur around the world in tropical and subtropical estuarine habitats. Their extensive root systems help to stabilize the shoreline and reduce inland flooding during severe storms. Mangroves preserve water quality and reduce pollution by filtering suspended material and assimilating dissolved minerals. The maze of roots provide exceptional habitat and cover for fish and invertebrates. As they decompose, leaves which fall into the water provide an important food source for a wide variety of animals. The cover and food they provide make mangroves an excellent nursery area: the majority of commercially available fish and shellfish spend at least a part of their life in mangroves and other estuarine habitats. Many water birds, such as brown pelican, white ibis, and great heron rely on the mangroves for nesting. For information on native plants, trees, shrubs and groundcovers, call the Palm Beach County Cooperative Extension Service Master Gardener Volunteer hotline at 233-1750.


Fragrant Summer Landscape Tradition

Fig. 1 Magnolia flower
A southern landscape tradition, Magnolia grandiflora is an American native tree. Southern magnolia is a large upright spreading tree that creates dense shade and can attain a height of eighty feet. This slow growing evergreen tree flowers even when young and prefers a moist, rich soil that is well drained, a perfect tree for irrigated landscapes. Use mulch to encourage additional moisture in our sandy South Florida soils. This tree is especially beautiful in late spring and early summer when it bears it’s large, dinner plate size, fragrant creamy-white flowers.  It’s four inch long subsequent cone-like fruit contains red seeds that birds enjoy. You may select available cultivars of magnolias for your garden to ensure your desired shape and density. For information on our native flowering trees call the Palm Beach County Cooperative Extension Service  Master Gardener volunteer hotline at 233-1750.


Fig. 2 Magnolia fruit/seed







New Whitefly Threat in Palm Beach County

Photo credit UF Osborne

The silverleaf whitefly Q-Biotype is now here in Palm Beach County.

In May 2016, for the first time the pesticide resistant silverleaf whitefly (Bemisia tabaci) Q-Biotype has been found established in Florida (Palm Beach County) landscapes.  Another genetically different whitefly that looks exactly the same, called the B-Biotype came into Florida around 1996 and created havoc for nursery poinsettia and commercial vegetable production by displacing the original “A-Biotype.”  Since then, the neonicotinoid insecticides helped manage it and other whiteflies.

The Q-Biotype (we will just call it Q whitefly for the remainder of this document) developed in the Mediterranean region of Europe likely due to their intensive form of vegetable production.  All of the biotypes of silverleaf whitefly look exactly alike.  They can only be differentiated by genetic testing – and sometimes by their sensitivity to, or tolerance of certain insecticides.  The genetic tools were not available in the mid-1990’s to reduce the confusion about the taxonomy of these insects back then.  Old names like sweetpotato whitefly and Bemisia argentifolii can still be found in documents available on the web. 

As of June 1, 2016, the Q whitefly has been positively identified in landscapes in Palm Beach Gardens, Palm Beach, Boca Raton and western Boynton Beach.  That is a broad area and implies that the Q whitefly is probably more widespread throughout the county – although, we will have to wait and see on that.  Interestingly, only B-Biotypes have been found so far in Broward and Monroe Counties, although they are also experiencing unusually high silverleaf whitefly control problems in spots.  Also of note is that Q whitefly transmitted viruses have been devastating vegetable production in some areas of the world.  Silverleaf whitefly has greater than 900 known host plants and can transmit more than 100 plant viruses.  So far, locally we have seen the Q whiteflies mostly on hibiscus and crossandra in landscapes.  The whitefly transmits at least two common tomato viruses in Florida, and one common pepper virus.  In fact, if you grow garden tomatoes in Palm Beach County, you probably have had tomato yellow leaf curl virus transmitted the B-Biotype on them in the past.  Viruses cannot be treated in vegetables, and must be controlled by managing the insects and destroying the plants.  Thankfully, we are at the end of tomato and pepper commercial production for this season, but you can see the implications for next season if limited effective insecticides are available for this difficult to manage pest.

Recommendations for landscape management are being developed and evolving.  Residents can use repeat applications of insecticidal soaps or oils to obtain some control.  Be sure to completely cover all leaf surfaces and avoid spraying during the hot parts of the day.  If you are using other common insecticides and still not getting control, feel free to contact our Master Gardener Hotline during normal business hours, Monday through Friday excluding holidays at 561.233.1750 or email  The Master Gardeners can also help you identify if you actually have silverleaf whitefly, or some other insect.

 Websites for Additional Information
Palm Beach Whitefly Task Force:

How to Send a Sample if You Suspect Q Whiteflies:

How to Tell if You Have Bemisia Whiteflies:


geraniumsPepper Variety Evaluation
March 2016

pdf Click to View


Zika Mosquito-Transmitted Virus

geraniumsThe Zika virus is a mosquito-transmitted disease that is causing concern in Florida and around the world. Click below for frequently asked questions, risks of the virus, how to avoid it, and other information.

Click here for more information




“New! 2016 Worker Protection Standard (WPS) Revisions Information Web Page”

geraniumsThe Worker Protection Standard (WPS) applies to farm, forest, nursery and, greenhouse operations that produce agricultural plants. Revisions to the WPS, made by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), were signed into law in 2016.  Farm, forest, nursery, and greenhouse operations must comply with most of these revisions beginning January 2, 2017.

Click to view all revisions



New! Sugar Cane Mosaic Virus on Floratam St. Augustinegrass

geraniumsResource and Information Website

Learn more about this serious new disease killing Floratam St. Augustinegrass lawns.





Palm Pruning Caution

Canary Island Date Palm


University of Florida research scientists are advising our landscape maintenance community to sterilize their pruning tools before and after they trim their Canary Island Date Palms-Phoenix canariensis to avoid spreading a deadly disease.
Dr. Monica Elliott, a plant pathology professor, published a study recently in the APS Journal of Plant Disease, June 2015 demonstrating that Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. canariensis, a pathogen that spreads fusarium wilt of Canary Island Date Palm, was discovered on a wild or Senegal date palm in Palm Beach County.
Some diseases, such as fusarium wilt of Canary Island date palm (, are known to be spread by pruning with infested tools. Tools used to prune infected palms will be covered with a residue containing fungal material. If this tool is then used to prune living leaves on a healthy palm, the fungus will be transferred in the process. When pruning these palms, tools should be soaked in a disinfectant solution for 5 minutes before using them on another palm. This is also a good reason not to prune off living older leaves to achieve the so-called "pineapple" effect on Canary Island date palms. Freshly cut living leaf bases release volatile chemicals that attract palm weevils, a serious insect pest of this palm ( Removing completely dead leaves and flower and fruit stalks from palms is never a problem.

Common products used to disinfect horticultural tools and surfaces:

Chlorine Bleach


Fumes can be harmful
Short life span of bleach solution (about ½ effect is gone after 2 hours), requires fresh batches immediately before disinfecting tools

10% bleach solution (1 part bleach : 9 parts water)
30-minute soak
Rinse with water after soak

Grocery and hardware stores and home-improvement centers

(Ethanol or Isopropyl Alcohol)

Immediately effective (no soaking)
Can be used as wipe
No need to rinse


Wipe or dip tool in 70 - 100% alcohol

Grocery stores and pharmacies


If you have a palm exhibiting problems call the Palm Beach County Cooperative Extension Master Gardener hotline at 233-1750 M-F 9-4, or stop by the office 531 North Military Trail West Palm Beach with your palm frond sample.


Millipede Invasion!

geraniumsYou may have noticed large numbers of millipedes seemingly invading homes and businesses this year. During this particular time of year the Palm Beach County Extension office receives many complaints about millipedes. Download the fact sheet to learn more about millipedes.

Download PDF pdf



Cattle Identification

geraniumsThe Cattle Identification Rule (Chapter 5C-31, Florida Administrative Code) has been published with an effective date of September 4, 2014. This rule is intended to improve our ability to respond to serious disease outbreaks and to help the industry maintain out-of-state markets.
Click here for more information.



Article Archives

Tips to Reduce and Repel Mosquitos
Cleaning Up Your Cold Damaged Plants
Attracting our Feathered Friends
Bee Cautious, Be Proactive
Cloning Your Fruit Trees
Cold Protection
Home Composting
Easy Houseplants
Edible Landscapes
Flooded Landscapes
Florida Friendly Irrigation Tips
Fragrant Plants
Garden Gifts
Ground Covers
Growing Bananas
Grow Your Own Backyard Veggies
Healthy Palm Pointers from the University of Florida
Herb Gardening in Southern Florida
Holiday Plant Care
Hurricanes Have Taught Us a Lesson
Gardening to Attract Hummingbirds
Non-Aggressive Rooted Trees
Patio Fruit Trees
Pineapple Growing in the Home Landscape
Selecting the Perfect Holiday Tree
Shade Your House, Save Money
Scary Spiders in Mounts Botanical Garden
Spring Flowering Vines
Spring Tree Maintenance
Summer Lovin’ Flowers
Summer Roses
Tomatoes in the Florida Garden
Trees With Benefits- Selecting a Small Tree for the Home Landscape
Tropical Flowering Bulbs for South Florida
Tropical Vegetables for the South Florida Garden
Why is it so important to plant native species?
Cactus and Succulent Container Gardens



Recommended Links


Contact Us


The Clayton E. Hutcheson Agricultural Services Center
559 North Military Trail
West Palm Beach
Florida 33415