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I'm worried my ponytail palm is dying because its leaves are falling off and there's black stuff on the top. Can you tell me if and how I can save this plant?

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    I'm sorry to say I think its likely dead, but, using a fingernail, just scrape back a bit of the bark or skin on the base and see what its like inside - if its dry and brownish, its dead, if its moist and greenish, it's still alive. If there's still life, have you been overwatering? – Bamboo Dec 23 '17 at 18:45
  • @Bamboo, your comment should actually be an answer. – benn Dec 24 '17 at 16:46
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The top part is dead and the most likely cause is overwatering. This plant is officially known as Beaucarnea recurvata and is a plant for high light and dry conditions. From the picture it looks like there is no drainage in the pot which might contribute to the death of the foliage.

There is still hope for this plant. Take some sharp pruning shears and cut off the dead foliage. Put the plant in a dry sunny spot and wait. If there is no new growth in six to eight weeks then the root rot has gone too far for it to recover. These plants will bud out from old growth. Do not water this plant until you see new growth and even then water only sparingly.

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    +1, but I will add that you might wait longer than 6-8 weeks. I resurrected one that had "died", it took 4 months (with no water and bright sun) before new growth burst forth. Mine had a much larger and bulbous base. – Jimmy Fix-it Dec 24 '17 at 21:20

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