What Do Palms Consist Of? What Are Palm Trees? Palm Trees are a vastly diverse group of flowering trees. They are angiosperms and below this in the group of monocots. Below this they are in the palm family of Arecaceae. They have trunks, stems, leaves and flowers similar to other monocots but in no way resemble the other plants of the monocot group. Often palm trees are called “grasses” but they are not strictly speaking a type of grass.
There are both male and female flowers and some species have flowers of both sexes on the same tree. Palms comprise 3000 species of tree distributed throughout the warmer countries of the world. All palms have tall trunks, bearing at the top a crown of feathery, frond-like leaves.
The most important usage of palm trees is in the landscape. Nothing brings back memories of the tropics more than palm trees. Many species of palm are of economic importance. Dates, coconuts, sago and oils are some of the more valuable products that come from palms.
Production of food, oil and fiber from the Coconut Palm is a worldwide industry. Dates are sought out by literally billions of people, especially throughout the Middle East.
The fruits of some Borassus species are also eaten in areas where they grow. Palm trunk timbers are used in construction, especially in Asia, trunks of Rattan Palms are critical to the furniture industry. This is not to forget the sugar, oil and fruit from many species which are a large industry as well. Without palms, the world would certainly be different.
From a fossil point of view, palm trees go back at least eighty million years ago to the Cretaceous Period during the times of the dinosaurs. Fossils of varieties of palm trees have been found from that era. As the Earth’s land masses have migrated, we even find fossils of palms in the most unexpected locations. Very old fossils of palm can even be found in the icy land masses in the Antarctic.
Experts feel that perhaps palm trees were among the earliest of all flowering trees. Fossil collectors worldwide have found imprints of palm tree leaves, trunks and even flowering structures. In the height of Egyptian culture, palm trees were worshiped by many and during the Biblical days, palms were frequently described for the importance they offered to humans. In many parts of the world palms evolved into a very important part of some civilizations culture, livelihood and agriculture.
Few Fascinating Facts About Palm Trees
*Some palms can reach heights of 70 feet or much more. The Quindio wax palm (Ceroxylon quindiuense) is the tallest species and can grow 160 to 200 feet high. It is the national tree and emblem of Colombia and is now a protected species, which means it can’t be used for logging.
Other tall palms include:
Mexican fan palm (Washingtonia robusta), seen in the Los Angeles and Southern California area, can grow up to 98 feet tall.
Date palm (Phoenix dactylifera), a fast grower, can reach up to 80 feet.
*The Assyrians believed that the ultimate symbol of eternal life was a tree growing beside a stream. The tree they valued most was the palm.
*On Palm Sunday, a week before Easter, Christians often carry palm fronds as part of a symbolic ritual that commemorates Jesus Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem, as foretold by the prophet Zechariah. According to the Bible, people cut branches from palm trees, laid them across Jesus’ path, and waved them in the air.
*Franciscan missionaries are credited with being the first to plant palm trees in California for ornamental purposes. By the turn of the 20th century, Southern California gardeners were hot for exotic palm trees and introduced them to the area.
*The 1932 World Olympics in Los Angeles is believed by some historians to be the reason for palms being planted along streets and pretty much every public park and gathering place in the city. This beautification project gave jobs to some 400 unemployed men during the Great Depression. Approximately 40,000 Mexican fan palm trees were planted along 150 miles of city streets. Since then, they’ve become an icon of the region, along with the Hollywood sign, beaches, etc.
*Depending on the species, some palms can live for more than a century. That means the palm you plant might outlive you. There is also recent evidence that, at the cellular level, palms may indeed be the oldest living trees because their cells are not replaced with new cells, as is the case with other trees.
*Everyone knows that you water a tree at its base. Palms are no different, but shooting that hose up to its leaves also is beneficial, helping to knock off the dust and to dislodge insects such as scale, mites, and mealybugs that like to hide out in the long stems of some palms. Washing also provides much-needed humidity, since most palms are grown in dry regions.
*Palms make great patio plants, as they grow they can be moved or replanted from a container to a more sunny location. Just make sure you have the right soil for a patio tree, along with a large enough container.
*Younger palm trees prefer shade and most varieties will tolerate it when mature. Planting new palms under the canopy of other trees will protect their tender fronds.
*The sago palm is a dwarf tree that is not a palm but a relative of conifers and Ginkgo trees. It looks amazingly palm-like and is a popular type of plant used for bonsai trees. However, it is poisonous and should not be accessible to pets and children.
*Trimming palm fronds is part of what keeps tree-trimming companies busy throughout the year, but this can be dangerous or even fatal work. Deaths have occurred when tree cutters have been suffocated by fronds that have slid down onto the worker and immobilized them. When this occurs, it’s almost impossible for a worker to remove the fronds, because his or her body is pinned against the trunk with hundreds of pounds of pressure from the fronds. The fronds can force a worker’s head and chin to his or her chest, resulting in suffocation.
*If the palms on your property need trimming, hire a company with experience in palm maintenance. When feasible, they should use bucket trucks or mobile cranes. When this equipment is not available or the location does not permit their use, there is a technique for trimming palms from above, so the trimmer won’t be caught beneath a palm tree’s skirt of fronds.
*The fruits of many palms, such as coconuts and dates, are delicious. Others, such as sago, are poisonous to humans and animals. Know what type of palm tree the fruit comes from before taking a bite.
*Palm trees do not produce cambium. In fact, palms are incapable of the ring-shaped secondary growth seen in other trees. Cut a palm tree down and you’ll see tiny circular vessels distributed evenly throughout the trunk. These are vascular tissues, xylem and phloem.
Stem cells lining these vessels produce “anomalous secondary growth” to thicken young trunks but once the trunk reaches its maximum diameter this no longer occurs. This keeps palm trunks narrow and stiff, perfect for supporting their frond crowns.
The drawback is that injuries to palm tree trunks can never heal. Without a cambium to direct closure over a wound, fungi, insects and other pests can easily penetrate wounded trees. The “bark” of the palm tree is not bark at all; it is made of “sclerified” (hardened) cells left over from the bases of previously shed fronds. This makes a palm not unlike a column of reinforced concrete with the vessels acting as rebar.
Content for this question contributed by Curtis Reinhardt, resident of Chino, San Bernardino County, California, USA