August 2003. A sago palm disorder is severe in Bougainville, Papua New Guinea. Photos were posted from members’ comments.
The condition started in about 1998, beginning at the coast at Torokina, spreading north and south. Since then, it has affected most of the Awaipa district, and people there expect all sago palms will be destroyed in the next 2 years. They are so concerned that they have begun to collect seed from those remaining. Palms of all ages are killed.
Common symptoms seem to be wilt and frond break, gummosis, and rapid rot. In one photo the youngest leaves are still green, although there is considerable trunk decay. It is noticeable that coconuts are unaffected.
The opinion was that the damage could be caused caused by weevils – Rhabdoscelus may be a
possibility, but there are several others that could be involved. It was suggested to look under younger petiole for the weevils.
Although very unlikely, it was suggested that the palms be checked for nematodes. Cut a palm about one metre from the base and see if there is ring (about 2-4 cm wide at about 3-5 cm from outside edge) of orange-reddish-brown staining of the tissue. if present this would indicate red ring disease.
Later (August 2011), another report on the sago palm disorder. The disorder has continued unabated since it was first reported, and now all the sago palms have died in the highlands. The only place where they are growing are in swamps in the lowlands. In the highlands, they are no longer used for housing, except by those people who have the means to bring them from the lowlands. People still associate weevils with the damage, but not necessarily the cause. They may attack already dying palms. Palms as small as 1.5 m die, so replanting has failed. In central Bougainville, it is estimated that 90% of the sago palms have died.