Are palm trees evergreen?

Palm Tree Trunks

Search this site

Palm tree trunks are absolutely amazing in their ability to bend and flex in hurricane force winds without breaking.

They don’t all look the same though.

There are marked distinctions in the trunks of palms just like their leaves.

The trunks of palm tree can safely fit into a few basic categories:

Those covered with fibers or possibly spines, rough or smooth texture, single or multi varieties and those that have their trunk grow underground.

There can be large differences in the ones that grow above ground even though they are in the same category.

Trunks, Fibers and Spines

Let’s take a quick look at the palm tree trunks that have fibers covering them.

There are quite a few and more often than not they belong to the fan leaf part of the family.

The windmill palm is has the fibers and spines. It’s hard to tell exactly what the trunk looks like underneath.

Some of the rules of exporting trees like this— is the trunk must be striped of the fibers before shipping.

I think its probably to eliminate the chances of transporting insects or possible bacteria or fungus that may be living in the fibers.

Another great example is the ” old Man Palm” It is called this partly because of the way the fibers look on the tree.

Both the fibers and the spines can be different lengths, colors and textures. It will all depend on the type of tree.

A tree famous for its spines on the trunk is the zombie palm. It is native here in the Dominican Republic.

It has a really neat design with the spines but I sure wouldn’t want to brush up against it by accident.

Original photo by Guettarda

Above: Zombie palm

Left: Old man palm

The terms single or muli trunks are pretty straight forward. There are many varieties that have both of these kinds in their family. Some good examples would be the bamboo palm or fishtail palm families.

The multi ones are also called clustering or clumping. Whole new trees spring up from the ground around the original creating a clump of trees.

Generally single palm tree trunks like the coconut don’t have branches. But every once in a while there’s a freak of nature.

that shows 2 kinds of normally single trunked trees that have decided to branch more than once. They are quite interesting.

Smooth Palm Tree Trunks

Now we’ll take the palm tree trunks with a smooth texture.

Most of the taller feather varieties are in this group with a few exceptions like the date palm.

Depending on which variety of date you are looking at they have both rough and smooth.

In general the royal, the coconut, and the travelers palms all have smooth trunks.

The appearances vary greatly from really tight, thin close rings to further apart and thicker.

Each ring is left after the leaf has fallen or been pruned off.

The biggest difference in palm tree trunks compared to ones like pines and maples is there are no branches. This means no knots. They don’t have growth rings inside either.

What does it look like when you peel off the bark?

The wood underneath doesn’t have any imperfections in it.

Tiger striped look of a young coconut palm trunk.

Same kind of tree but younger. The leaf fibers still attached.

Only as recent as 1997, an Australian company did some excellent research and development into palm, and more specifically coconut palm wood.

They found that once it was cured (dried) it was actually an extremely hard wood- harder than oak and with no knots, or rings.

The closer you get to the center of the tree trunk the softer the wood becomes, although even the center is pretty darn hard after drying.

You can really get a good idea

of the different textures and

colors of coconut palm wood.

It’s unlike any other wood because it’s extremely flexible due to the high silica content.

The trunks of older palms, and the ones used in fruit production, like the date or coconut palm, used to go out to the garbage.

They weren’t recycled at all and considered waste.

Now the wood is used for everything from siding to floors.

The wood has a coloring anywhere from blonde to near black depending on which palm species it was harvested from.

Growing conditions and location will also play a part in what color wood you get.

Rough Trunks

Its hard to tell, but the rough palm trunks will also have a smooth inner core after the old leaf bases are stripped off. The process is called skinning.

I would use careful consideration in trying this. Unlike other trees like maples or oaks, palms can’t heal their trunks once they are damaged.

Others will sort of heal a wound by sealing it off. Palms can’t so you’ll have to be very careful not to damage them.

Peeling the bark itself from the tree will kill it. It’s the trees protection (just like our skin) from weather, predators and anything else mother nature can throw at them.

As you can see these rough ones appear quite a bit coarser and thicker.

They do not have inner growth rings either.

These kinds of trunks are generally more susceptible to insects and rot.

Moisture collects there and insects can make a home in the deep crevices of the bark.

It is perfect environment for them that can cause substantial damage to the tree if not looked after.

It doesn’t really matter how you look at it palm tree trunks are all unique in their own way.

Consider the palm wood used to make the items below.

Maybe you already have some in your home and didn’t even know it.

You might like these

Follow the arrows for more cool info on palms.

back to top

Other articles you may find useful:

The other parts of the tree are equally important. To find out more look under information for a general look, or in each of these sections -leaves or fruit – for a more detailed look.

Background takes a look back into history. Do you now how long these trees have been around?

Palm Tree Passion is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Palm Tree Passion (amazon.com).

Palm Tree Passion>Palm Tree Information>Palm Tree Trunks

Normal Abnormalities in Palm Trees

Palm trees are without a doubt one of the most popular landscape plants used in Florida. After all, what is a Florida garden without a palm tree? The famous Carl Linnaeus, The Father of Modern Taxonomy, regarded palms as “Princes in The Landscape.”

Here in Hernando County, UF/IFAS Extension Hernando County Master Gardeners receive many questions on palms. One common question we get in plant clinics is “Why are roots coming out of my palm tree?” “Is this normal?” The answer is yes.

Palms are monocotyledons that have an adventitious root system. The roots evolve primarily from the stem tissue, as opposed to a larger root system. In seedlings, palm roots emerge in an area of the base called the root initiation zone. As the palm seed grows, the root initiation zone extends upward and outward. Roots that are exposed to soil or any other moist environment, continue to grow outward and downward in the soil where they function as roots. Roots that arise above the root initiation zone and are exposed to a drier environment, cease growing. If the environment becomes moist, then the roots will resume growing. The root initiation zone usually arises no more than 6 to 12 inches up the palm. However, certain palm species such as date palms (Phoenix spp.), the root initiation zone can occur several feet up the trunk. Examples of palms that demonstrate this condition are Canary Island Date Palms, Pygmy Date Palms, Sylvester Palms, Wild Date Palms, Cabbage Palms and Washingtonia Palms. We usually see this condition after the palm has been established. This condition is a normal abnormality, meaning that this will not harm the palm at all.

If you see this is on your palm, then do not worry. Do not try to cut the exposed roots off or pile dirt around the roots. This also does not mean your palm was planted too high. Do not be tempted to dig up the palm and plant it deeper within the soil. This may lead to a more serious problem. Another normal abnormality is trunk flare. This is most always seen along with the root initiation zone. Palm roots extend upward causing the bark to flare up, sometimes peeling off the trunk. Again, this is a normal part of the palms development.

For more information on other normal abnormalities of palm trees, please visit http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ep344. Need more help with your lawn or landscape? Contact our UF/IFAS Hernando County Master Gardeners. Stop by our office anytime between 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. at 16110 Aviation Loop, Brooksville. You can also call our office at (352) 754-4433 to speak to one of our Master Gardeners. Extension programs are open to all persons without regard to race, color, sex, age, disability, religion, or national origin.

{article.name}

  • Share this:
  • Share on Facebook
  • Pin on Pinterest
  • Tweet on Twitter

Whether they are used as an exotic houseplant, a greenhouse specimen or a landscaping focal point, palm trees are the ultimate in luxurious tropical foliage. While these trees can be hardy in their native habitats – withstanding drenching rainy seasons, all manner of tropical pests and even brutal hurricanes – they are still susceptible to a variety of problems. Understanding the most common and widespread palm tree problems can help you properly identify and fix issues to keep these stunning trees strong and healthy.

Top Palm Tree Problems

Different problems are common among a variety of palm trees. How each problem affects individual trees, however, will vary depending on the tree’s exact species, overall health and the extent of the difficulties it faces. The most common problems afflicting a wide range of palm trees include…

  • Sooty Mold
    This mold appears as ashy gray or black mold on palm fronds, and while it doesn’t dramatically harm the tree, it is unsightly and often unwelcome. The mold forms from excess sugar byproducts in insect wastes, and treating insect issues is essential to eliminate the mold. While spraying can be effective on smaller palms, systemic treatments are more effective for taller, more mature palms that are difficult to spray.
  • Lethal Yellowing
    Palm trees infected with lethal yellowing will show yellow, drooping fronds that lose all their green pigmentation and cannot recover. Flowers will wilt and die, and any fruits or nuts will drop early. This disease is spread by insects and can be treated with root injections if the infection is only slight, but if the majority of the tree is impacted, it is best to remove the tree completely to prevent spreading the illness to other palms.
  • Fungal Infections
    Palm trees are subject to a wide variety of fungal infections that are common in warm, humid environments. Symptoms of fungus can include rotting on the trunk, uncharacteristic wilting and overall slow growth. Because these infections can spread quickly, it is important to remove an infected tree as soon as possible to protect other trees. When pruning palms, it is critical to sterilize tools between plants to avoid spreading these infections.
  • Overwatering
    Like all trees, different types of palms have different moisture preferences, and all too often these trees are drastically overwatered with supplemental irrigation. The drainage of the soil influences how much water is necessary, and it is best to plan nearby landscaping to accommodate plants with similar watering needs to avoid accidentally overwatering a palm tree. Adjust sprinklers regularly to be sure palms are not receiving too much water.
  • Improper Pruning
    Poor pruning practices can have a dramatic impact on the health of palm trees. These trees store nutrition and energy in their fronds, and it is essential to not remove fronds unless they are completely brown, or else the tree will be deprived of that stored nutrition. When pruning a palm tree, remove no more than 15 percent of its fronds to avoid shock and deprivation.

In addition to these common problems, other difficulties faced by palm trees include cold injuries, lightning strikes, air root growth, nutrient deficiencies and more. The exact problems any palm may face depend on its species, location and overall care. If your palm trees aren’t looking their very best, consult your local garden center, nursery or palm tree arborist for expert guidance on how to get your palms back to their most luxurious, healthiest appearance.

What To Do For Fraying Or Shedding Palm Fronds

Winter’s icy winds and heavy snows are subsiding and the kiss of summer sun is on the horizon. Now is the time to take stock of the damage to your plants. Fraying palm tips are common sights after storms. They may also be caused by mechanical damage, desiccation, disease and even nutrient deficiency or excesses. Identify the cause and learn what to do about your palm tree shedding and fraying.

Palm Tree Shedding and Fraying Foliage

Fraying or shedding palm fronds occur naturally or as the result of pest damage or disease. They are unsightly but usually don’t affect the plant’s health unless all the foliage is heavily tattered, which can affect photosynthesis. This reduces the plant’s ability to collect solar energy to turn into important carbohydrates. Most damage from wind, ice and snow is limited to the most exposed leaves and can simply be cut out after all danger of frost has passed. Other reasons for the damage may require a more thorough solution.

Natural Fraying and Shedding of Palms

Palm trees regularly grow new leaves and shed the old ones. This palm tree shedding is part of the tree’s natural growth and is not cause for concern. Some palms do not self clean, so you can prune out the dead leaves. Palm leaf shedding starts with fraying foliage, which eventually leaves the entire frond and stem brown and dead.

Frayed palm leaves may also be caused from ice damage. Although it mars the appearance of the lovely foliage, it is not necessary to trim the ends unless it really offends you. Fraying or shedding palm fronds may be yellow, black or brown at just the ends or on the entire leaf and stem. This distinction can help you diagnose the cause.

Site Conditions for Damaged Palm Fronds

  • Wind and icy weather causes tip damage, which is usually brown from ice and yellow to brown from wind.
  • Dryness is also a factor. Palm trees are often native to warm climes but they still need additional water to prevent the foliage from drying out when the area is extremely arid. The tips will start to dry and discolor and eventually the entire frond will turn brown.
  • Yellow fronds indicate that the plant is receiving too much water.
  • Soil acidity is another factor in fraying palm tips. Clues that the soil is too salty or alkaline will appear in the form of blackened fraying palm tips. Add a little gypsum or sulfur to combat this issue.

Bugs and Other Pests Causing Frayed Palm Leaves

Scale, whiteflies, and aphids are frequent eaters at the palm tree buffet. Their feeding habits suck vital fluids from the plant, causing reduced vigor and discolored leaves.

Rodents nibble at the ends of the new growth producing frayed palm leaves. Gophers and rabbits will also add their feed damage, which is unfortunate for the tree’s health when they eat off all the baby leaves. This inhibits regular healthy growth, so it is important to get a handle on any furry pests in the area.

Diseases Causing Palm Leaf Damage

Fungal diseases occur when conditions are moist and warm. Avoid overhead watering which can increase the spore growth and reduce leaf health. Diseases that attack palms may include false smut. It is also called Graphiola leaf spot and has an appearance similar to the normal smut or speckled discoloration found on many palm species when the fronds are young. In this case, the false smut starts out as warty black spots on fronds and can progress to killing the entire leaf and petiole.

Copper fungicides and the removal of infected leaves will prevent the spread of the disease and further palm leaves shedding from damage.

How palm frond print went from the French Riviera to Target

Welcome to Noticed, The Goods’ design trend column. You know that thing you’ve been seeing all over the place? Allow us to explain it.

What it is: Palm frond print. You know — a print that is just a basic illustration of the leaves of a palm tree. Sometimes conflated with , though they are not the same thing. (Banana leaves, when used in American fashion and design, have a distinctly colonialist vibe that palm trees do not quite have.) Palm frond print can be neon or pastel or black and white, and the palm fronds do not have to be the actual color of palm trees, which in the case of Los Angeles right now is mostly a sickly yellow.

Where it is: It has been days since you last saw palm frond print. Palm fronds are on the cheap iPhone cases at the Forever 21 checkout. They’re on something between 40 and 98 percent of the sundresses at every summer picnic. They’re on pillows, doormats, pool floats. They’re in framed prints in beachside motels, and in the wallpaper at the Beverly Hills Hotel. (Plus at least one Southern Charm star’s bedroom, and maybe yours if you shop at Anthropologie, Home Depot, West Elm, Pottery Barn, or Wayfair.) They are on seven palm print bathing suits currently available at Target. Two hundred and sixty available items on Asos. Possibly 33,079 available items on Etsy.

Even Good Morning America loves palm fronds. It is now a standard print, for everyone, and has been for a minute. Last summer it was at Macy’s, Club Monaco, Urban Outfitters, and the Walmart-owned ModCloth. The year before, it was on a S’well water bottle and a $25 H&M tablecloth. Saint Laurent’s 2016 sold for $2,690 and was worn by Olivia Wilde, Justin Bieber, and Keith Richards, though it was shown months after former star of The Hills Lauren Conrad , directing her readers to offerings from Old Navy.

The Guardian covered the palm print trend in August 2014, with fashion writer Lauren Cochrane saying, “You can tell by taking a trip to the trend central that is Topshop, where are everywhere. Come November, however, this trend will be O-V-E-R.” Whoops!

Why you’re seeing it everywhere: Palm frond print is a perfect example of the coming together of high fashion and fast fashion — a trend that has been rapidly accelerated by Instagram and the direct-to-consumer shake-up in manufacturing.

But its entire history is one of distinctly American aspirations — the longing for a life that is not just livable but glamorous and fun.

In a history of the palm trees of Los Angeles, Atlas Obscura’s Dan Nosowitz explains how Californian cities — in their youth, alongside the railroad system, at the end of the 19th century — attempted to lure people to the desert by mimicking the allure of the French Riviera. That area had only recently become cool, thanks to the presence of a bunch of famous modernist novelists, and “a trendy new health fad in which time in a dry warm climate is supposed to have good effects on the body.”

George Rose/Getty Images

Around this time, Nosowitz writes, “Palms took off as a symbol of wealth, luxury, nice weather, vacation.” (They appear to have made their way to fashion quite quickly. A photo in a 1924 issue of Vogue shows actress Helen Lee Worthing in a palm print drop-waist dress and wide-brimmed straw hat.) So in 1931, Los Angeles planted an estimated 25,000 non-native palm trees along all of its major roads. “The region’s most cliché icons, instantly associated with good times, good weather,” as the writer Char Jansen described them. “A palm tree is the ultimate in easy aesthetics: pretty, finely shaped, and exotic.”

From then on, the working class and the leisure class were playing a never-ending game of tug-of-war with the palm tree. As much as it was a symbol of the glitz of Hollywood and the “Manifest Destiny” of California, it was also a symbol of something as simple as sunshine, and — with the advent of the highway — as accessible as vacation. In 1905, the middle class blossomed in Los Angeles thanks to the building of an aqueduct connecting developments to the Colorado River, and these new homeowners started planting palm trees too. As botanist Scott Zona writes in a history of the plant, these people were able to “convincingly emulate the larger gardens of the state’s wealthiest citizens.”

Slim Aarons/Getty Images

How does this relate to patterned bathing suits and leafy mini dresses? Take the story of Lilly Pulitzer — an oil heiress who eloped with a newspaper heir — moving to Palm Beach in 1952.

“She’s an exotically bohemian type, a bronzed brunette who plays tennis barefoot, hosts riotous parties, and walks down Worth Avenue with her pet rhesus monkey on her shoulder,” Emily Goulet wrote in a history of Pulitzer’s $200 million brand for Philadelphia magazine. She started making tropical-patterned shift dresses — lined, so that she would not have to wear underwear — while working at a juice stand with retired Harper’s Bazaar fashion editor Laura Robbins Clark, then built a cult following selling them for $22 a pop to the town’s wealthy vacationers. Jackie Kennedy wore one in Life magazine in 1962, which is to say at the start of the decade of rich people going on cruises.

Then Karl Lagerfeld made a line of 27 palm tree and island-printed silk scarves for Chloé in 1975, which were imported from Paris by a New York boutique called California Things and sold for $60 apiece (about $285 with today’s inflation). Throughout the 1970s, Kelly green palm leaves were popular on cruise-wear and printed on pricey silk dresses. Palm trees were Joan Didion’s icon of choice, referenced in the same sentences as Hollywood actresses, Patty Hearst, and Iranian arms deals — all the vectors of money, celebrity, and hidden violence she was most interested in.

Pulitzer herself wasn’t an elitist; she was a weirdo who hated shoes. But by the time Lilly Pulitzer announced a Target collaboration in 2015, that was all but forgotten. The brand had been purchased by some Harvard MBA graduates in 1993 (about a decade after the company had filed for bankruptcy), and, as Goulet put it, “brought it back from the dead” this time as “the essential regalia of WASP-y blue bloods.”

The Target collaboration sold out within minutes but brought out the ugly side of the new Lilly Pulitzer empire — longtime fans of the brand tweeted things like “Sorry but Lilly Pulitzer should not be sold at Target. Sucks if you can’t afford it but that’s life” and “If you weren’t classy enough to have it before, you sure as hell aren’t classy enough now.” The rich and the average both feel a claim on the palm tree, which explains why it never exactly goes out of style. When one gets sick of it, the other picks it back up. When one steals it away, the other gets territorial about it.

Etsy’s in-house trend expert Dayna Isom Johnson tells me that there have been 170,000 searches for “palm frond print” on the platform in the past six months, but it’s been extremely popular for at least a few years, and can be linked to the full-throated return of maximalism and the resurgence of ’70s references in home decor.

“One thing you really associate with the 1970s is strong wallpaper prints,” Johnson says, and wallpaper is one of the categories in which palm print shows up the most. She guesses that it’s a way for people to add greenery to their homes without actually rearing plants — which millennials notoriously love, and often admit to failing at.

In 2013, Miuccia Prada showed silk jackets, vintage suitcases, and matching men’s and women’s blouses covered in palm leaves, with the New York Times noting that the dresses, “which were shown with high-top sneakers, wouldn’t look out of place on a reality television show set on a cruise ship.” Prada told the Times that she wanted “to question the idea of going on vacation,” which is meant to be fun but is actually “menacing” (in her words) and “maybe a little sad” (in the Times’s). In any case, the reviewer hated the show and complained that “clichés were stamped all over the clothes.”

So the reason you’re seeing the palm frond everywhere now is pretty simple: It can’t go anywhere. The palm trees of Didion’s Los Angeles are reaching the end of their 100-year life span, their deaths accelerated by fungi and insects that prey easily on the non-native species. The city plans to replace them with trees that consume less water and provide more shade, but the enormous fronds falling from the sky and disrupting traffic are not compostable, so they will occupy plenty of space for a good long time.

Sign up for The Goods’ newsletter. Twice a week, we’ll send you the best Goods stories exploring what we buy, why we buy it, and why it matters.

Edible Palms: An Introduction to Palm Fruits

At first you may have to rack your brain a bit to think what sort of fruits come from palms. You might be surprised how many do, and some of these fruits are among some of the most important fruits from an economic as well as health point of view. Coconut is the first fruit that probably comes to mind, and date fruits might be the next. Both of these are important in the world economies. But one you may not have known was a palm fruit is the Acai berry. There are dozens more, most which are tropical in origin, but a few which can be grown and enjoyed even in marginal warm temperate climates such as found in parts of California, Florida, Texas, Arizona and a few of the southeastern states.

If you want to be absolutely accurate, almost all palm fruits are edible, though I would not really recommend eating most of them. Some are toxic however, and have high levels of oxalates in them so these are palm fruits that definitely should be avoided (see article on Dangerous Palms). I have tried numerous palm fruits myself and have been disappointed most of the time. However our local squirrels seem to like them regardless and palm fruits are a large part of many Fox Squirrel diets in Southern California.

Also, for accuracy, some of the palm ‘fruits’ discussed below are actually the palm seeds or nuts within the fruits (such as the case with the coconut, jubaea and parajubaea species). The actual fruit parts of these palms is just the fibrous, mostly inedible seed coating surrounding the nut or seed.

There are already several articles in Davesgarden about coconuts and dates. Both have recently been increasing in popularity due to health benefit claims of these fruits and their byproducts. In particular, coconut water has really become a popular item, at least here in Southern California, and dozens of brands of this product seem to have magically popped up overnight.

Coconut palms in Hawaii (left); right photo shows ripe coconuts (left) and unripe (right)- photo Thaumaturgist

Coconut cut up open showing fibrous, inedible fruit layer around the actual seed (nut) inside (photo htop)

Entire shelf of coconut water options at grocers (left); one of many other food products from Coconuts (right)

Date palms in Cochella Valley, southern California (left); Date palms in landscaping full of ripening fruit (right)

Date palm Pakistan Dhakki variety left (photo cactus_lover); Medjool dates (right)- the most popular for eating in the US

Dates on tree unripe still

But few palm fruits can top the Acai berry for health claims. This fruit comes from a South American tree in the Euterpe family (Euterpe oleracea aka Acai Palm), a clumping, tropically fastidious palm that is also an attractive landscape plant as well as an economically important source for palm heart (see this article for more reading.) Many people have been asking me over the last few years how they can grow this palm in their greenhouses or back yards. Unfortunately it is a nearly impossible palm to grow outside the tropics with only the southern-most tip of Florida and Hawaii having climates in the US that can support this palm. And it is a very tall palm (over thirty feet), so growing it in a greenhouse (unless you have a really tall one) is not practical. And it does not tend to fruit well until it reaches maturity.

Acai palms (Euterpe oleracea) in cultivation, Hawaii

Acai fruit (left); very similar in appearance, Mountain Acai (Euterpe precatoria) fruit in tree- right photo

As you can see from the article below, Acai berries (if you believe everything you read) are truly a magical fruit, curing aging, diabetes, dementia, bad skin, etc. The antioxidant and fatty acid components alone can supposedly help cured dozens of common maladies. And the palm fruit business is making a fortune off these claims. I am not able to determine what is actually true, though some of the weight loss claims have been found to be fraudulent and there have been big lawsuits over this already. Just Google acai fruit and you will see what I mean. The link below is to one of the better articles on Acai and it has some nice photos of Acai berries (as I do not have any). Below you can see some Euterpe precatoria (aka the Forest Acai Palm) fruits which supposedly have even a higher antioxidant concentration than Euterpe oleracea fruits and look nearly identical. There really isn’t all that much fruit to each berry as 90% of the volume is filled with the palm seed within.

Above are just a few of the dozens and dozens of Acai products one can find in grocers today

For more reading on Acai, clickon

One of the tastiest of all the palm fruits comes from the Peach Palm (Bactris gaisepes), which makes a juicy, red fruit that reportedly tastes a bit like peaches. Most Bactris are intensely spiny palms, but a spineless form of this species has been selected for in cultivation making harvesting of this fruit much more practical. This is another fairly fastidiously tropical species. It too is a good source of palm heart like the Acai palm.

Peach palms (Bactris gaisepes) left photo: Right is close up of fruit in tree. Both these photos are of the cultivated non-spiny form of this species

Images borrowed from Wikipedia for Peach palm fruits and commercial product

Below are some links to recipes for Peach Palm fruit

Elaeis guineensis (and its South American relative, Elaeis oliefera) are known commonly as Oil Palms and are among the most economically important of all the world’s palms. The African Oil palm is the primary source of palm oil throughout the world, and it is harvested from both the fruit and the seeds. Technically palm oil is obtained from the fruit of these palms while palm kernel oil, the far more important economic product, is obtained from the seed of these palms. This kernel oil is very high in saturated fats and has been villanized as being the cause for all sorts of ailments from high cholesterol to coronary artery disease. It is one of the most common vegetable oils in processed foods. On the other hand, palm oil from the fruit of these palms is considered one of the more healthful oils, full of vitamin E fractions and other antioxidants as well. Many local parrots live in part of this fruit and the oils within and maintain an excellent health because of it. The palms themselves are large, solitary majestic species definitely worthy of growing as landscape palms, even if they are a source of such dietary evil.

African Oil Palms (Elaeis guineensis) in Thailnd (left) and Hawaii (right)

South African Oil Palm (Elaeis olifera) left photo; Oil palm fruit in tree (right)

Another palm that has received its share of negative attention is the Betel Nut Palm (Arecea catechu), a very commonly grown and moderately ornamental palm through many Asian countries. Betel Nut is a mildly hallucinogenic fruit that is usually chewed to effect, somewhat as one would do with chewing tobacco. There is some debate about the addictive qualities of this fruit, but it is certainly apparent that excessive chewing causes all sorts of dental decay as well as a mild sedative/stimulant action (not sure how it can do both, but it seems to) that can affect ones work. It has also been associated with increased incidences of oral cancer, asthma exacerbation, hypertension, psychoses and type two diabetes. Additionally the discoloration it creates to ones mouth and gums is unsightly, as is the constant spitting chewers have to do to get rid of the large quantities of saliva the fruit stimulates. Many other species of Areca have been chewed as well, though most are far less common in cultivation.

Betel Nut Fruits from Wikipedia

Betel Nut Palms (Areca catechu) in Thailand (left) where they are grown for eating/chewing; and left in Hawaii where grown for landscape purposes

Betel Nuts wrapped in leaves ready for chewing (left); person chewing Betel Nut (right); both photos from Wikipedia

Another tropical palm sometimes grown for its edible and quite tasty fruit is the Snake Palm (Salacca zalacca). This is an intensely spiny palm and sadly not terribly ornamental, so few grow this as a garden palm (hence I have not seen too many), but it is somewhat economically important in some Asian countries as a food item. It is called the Snake Palm due to the fruit’s snake-like scaly skin. The edible part is a large white, succulent but somewhat astringent fruit. On a trip to Thailand I had the opportunity to eat this fruit and it was actually pretty good.

Salacca zalacca in cultivation Hawaii (left or above); fruit with seed coat, then without, and then seed itself (right, or lower, photo from Wikipedia)

Locally, for me, there is a species of palm (Butia capitata, or perhaps B. odorata as its name may be officially changing soon, aka the Jelly Palm) that has very tasty fruit. This fruit is particularly good for making jam and jellies (hence the name), but eating it right off the tree (or usually off the ground as it tends to fruit best once the fruit is just out of reach) is fine with me. There is a huge variation in the amount and sweetness of the fruit from tree to tree, so if you try it once and don’t find it particularly appealing, try another tree’s fruits just to make sure. Other Butia species have similar tasty fruits but are far less common in cultivation.

Jelly Palm (Butia capitata) (left); Butia fruit in tree (right)

Butia fruit on ground under tree (left); Making Butia Jelly (right photo by Happenstance)

Click on this link for a recipe for Butia Jelly

Another local palm tree that has several edible attributes is the Chilean Wine Palm (Jubaea chilensis), one of the hardiest of all the world’s palm trees and perhaps the second most hardy of all the pinnate palms (Butia being the hardiest). Again, as in the Coconut, it is actually the seed that is the edible part of this palm, with the fruit being fairly bland and dry (I have tried it many times since it looks like a giant Butia fruit… but never any good). Even the popular hybrid, Butia x Jubaea, does not make a good edible fruit. However, the seed (difficult to eat in my opinion) is very similar in flavor to the coconut. The seeds are extremely hard and quite small (relative to a coconut seed at least) and, to me, hardly worth the effort. This palm has traditionally been grown for its sap from which wine can be made… however, this process kills the tree (and these are very very expensive trees).

Chilean Wine Palm (Jubaea chilensis) in Southern California (left); fruit in tree (right)

Jubaea fruit on ground (left); Butia often hybrdizes with Jubaea and this fruit actually is moderately edible (left) and looks just like Jubaea fruit

Though not currently known for its edible fruits, the Saw Palmetto Palm (Serenoa repens) was historically a source of food for native Indians in Florida (where it is a native species). Today it is much better known as the source of a prostate medication found in the fruit that helps shrink overgrown prostates as well as relax uptight urethras.

Saw Palmetto (Serenoa repens) normal color in Southern California (left) and blue form in Florida (right)

Saw Palmetto fruits (unripe left) and ripe (right). Right photo by Floridian

Saw Palmetto products (some of many) on the market

Several other cold hardy species have reportedly tasty fruits, notably the Guadalupe Palm (Brahea edulis) and the common California Fan Palm (Washingtonia filifera). I have to admit to not trying either of these, but have heard the former is rather good, particular for cooking. Washingtonia fruits are extremely small and there is barely any fruit surrounding the tiny, beebee sized seeds (which are hard as a rock), so one has to be careful when eating these fruits (or you could lose a filling).

Brahea edulis used as landscaping palm in Los Angeles

Brahea edulis fruit ripening in tree

Washingtonia filifera in Southern California

Washingtonia filifera fruit on tree, and closer with seed exposed (right); both photos Xenomorf

Other species noted for their edible fruit around the world (though primarily eaten by locals) include several species of Acrocomia, Actinorhytis, Allagoptera, Astrocaryum, Attalea, Bactris, Borassus, Calamus, Carpoxylon, Chamaerops, Clinostigma, Copernicia, Cryosophila, Daemonorops, Dypsis (many species), Gulubia, Hyphaene, Jubaeaopsis, Latania, Loxococcos, Nypa, Oenocarpus, Parajubaea, many species of Phoenix aside from dactylifera (though I have not found these all that great), Pinanga, Ptychococcus, Sabal and Syagrus (many).

Recently, I had the good fortune of getting away to some place warm for the weekend. I’m an early riser in a family of not-so-early risers, so the mornings offer a period of peace and quiet to myself. One morning, I found myself sitting under a palm tree that looked a lot like this one (Fig. 1) and I couldn’t help but think: “Palm trees are weird.” I’m a bit of a tree nerd, so I probably spend more time than the average person looking at different trees. This might explain why the features of this palm tree struck me as so bizarre. But if you take a second and look at a palm tree, they really are quite different than most trees.

Fig. 1 A palm tree (Source: Angelo Mariconte via Steemit.com)

It didn’t take long before I turned to Googling some of my curiosities regarding palm trees. I immediately found blog posts stating, “Fun fact: palm trees actually aren’t trees at all!” while other sources claimed palm trees were, in fact, trees. So what’s the verdict? Are palm trees actually trees? This shouldn’t be that hard; for one, it’s in the name! Not to mention, everyone knows what a tree is. To treat this as a more academic affair, all we need to do is look up the definition of a tree from a reliable source and determine if palm trees meet that definition or not. But believe it or not, that’s where we meet our first hang up. There is no universally agreed upon definition of a “tree” !

I found this fact very surprising. It turns out, the distinction between “tree” and “shrub”, for instance, are often debated and fairly subjective. The distinction between a tree and shrub is complicated further by the fact that individuals of the same species may take different forms (from more tree-like to more shrub-like or even viney) depending on the habitat and resources available to the individual. The word “tree” really refers to a set of characteristics that has evolved multiple times throughout the history of plants in different lineages.

Forestry professor and author of multiple tree textbooks, William M. Harlow, has defined a tree as: a woody plant that has a consistent stem above ground year-round that does not wither or die back in autumn, at least 20 ft tall with a single stem/trunk and having a distinct crown shape . In this particular definition, we can see several subjective terms and arbitrary/debatable distinctions (i.e. “distinct crown shape”, “woody plant“, “at least 20 ft tall”) that make it difficult to determine if a palm tree is truly a tree or not.

Some people argue that palm trees are not really trees because they do not display secondary growth – gaining thickness each year – the process responsible for tree rings (Fig. 2). Palms do not display secondary growth because palms are actually more closely related to grasses than any species you would likely think of as a “tree” (maples, oaks, a Christmas pine/fir, etc.). Palm trees also don’t have any branches, which isn’t very tree-like, furthering the argument against their classification as a tree.

Fig. 2 On the left is a cross-section of a yew tree displaying classic tree rings which highlight secondary growth. Each year the tree grows outward from the center one additional ring. (Source: MPF via Wikipedia). On the right is a cross-section of a palm tree. There are no visible rings because palms trees do not gain girth over time. They remain one thickness throughout their life, thus they do not experience secondary growth (Source: Kadeve via Wikipedia).

So what’s the verdict? Can we call palm trees “trees” or should we rename them? Well, if there is any final authority on trees, it might be the International Dendrology Society (dendrology = the study of trees). The International Dendrology Society describes at least one species of palm as a tree on their Trees and Shrubs Online webpage . I’ll let you decide how much weight that ought to carry. In my book, they’re a very unique TREE.

A few more fun facts about palm trees:

  • Palm tree leaves, called fronds, are long and thin to minimize wind resistance .

  • Palm tree trunks are much more flexible than conifer and deciduous tree trunks .

  • These first two characteristics are very useful in places that experience high winds with regularity, like the hurricane-ridden tropics where palms are found.

  • Palm trees are evergreen – they never drop their leaves .

  • Coconuts come from palm trees and the double coconut is the single largest fruit in the entire plant kingdom weighing in at 40 pounds or more .

  • Humans living in warmer climates have depended on many different useful characteristics of various palm species to survive for centuries .

  • To this day, palms are one of the most commercially valuable plants, providing fruit (coconuts), cooking oils, soap, cosmetics, wax for polishes, lumber for furniture and boats, and fibers for domestic products like doormats, brooms, hats, and “reed” furniture .

  • The “bark” of palm trees can vary widely from smooth to spiney to shaggy (Fig. 3) .

  • Thanks to global climate change, it might not be too long before palm trees can be found as far north as Canada .

Fig. 3 Left: the relatively smooth bark of the coconut tree (Cocos nucifera); Center: the shaggy, fibrous bark of the old man palm (Coccothrinax crinita); Right: the spiney bark of the black palm (Astrocaryum standleyanum). Sources: left = Satish Parganiha, center = judgefloro via Wikipedia, right = Katja Shultz.

Gschwantner, Thomas, Klemens Schadauer, Claude Vidal, Adrian Lanz, Erkki Tomppo, Lucio di Cosmo, Nicolas Robert, Daisy Englert Duursma, and Mark Lawrence. “Common tree definitions for national forest inventories in Europe.” (2009).

Harlow, William M. “Trees of the Eastern and Central United States and Canada.” Dover Publications Inc. New York, NY. (1957).

International Dendrology Society. “Trees and Shrubs Online.” http://treesandshrubsonline.org/. Accessed: 2019-10-20.

Wotherspoon, Darla. “Palm Tree Passion.” Accessed: 2019-10-20

More From Thats Life

  • Technological Advancements…. Thanks to Ferrets?
  • Are palm trees really trees?
  • The Eastern Spotted Newt: A Wandering Teenage Identity Crisis
  • Survival by Aposematism and Mimicry: The Evolution of Bright Color Patterns
  • Sifak-huh?
  • More ›

Palm Tree Fronds Turning Brown or Drooping on Outdoor Palm Trees? Try…

Ah, the look of lush green palm tree leaves against a pure blue sky will have you dreaming of paradise.
But nothing snaps you back to reality faster than a palm tree with droopy, discolored leaves. What’s there to do when your palm doesn’t look its best? If you’re like Davey blog reader Jack from California, that question might have you a little stumped. Jack tried out a bunch of fertilizers and a whole new water regimen on his foxtail palm tree but had no luck repairing its yellow, droopy leaves.
Get back to enjoying your dreamy palm trees with this advice on restoring a droopy, brown tree.

Why palm tree leaves are turning brown on outdoor palm trees

Here’s the deal—there are a number of reasons why your palm might have switched up its appearance. Yellow, brown or droopy leaves could mean:

  • The tree isn’t getting enough water;
  • The soil is short on key nutrients like nitrogen or magnesium;
  • Pesky palm tree weevils, spider mites, aphids or some other insect got a hold of your tree;
  • A fungal infection like Ganoderma root rot is at work; or
  • The natural ebb and flow of palm leaves is putting a temporary yellow tint on your tree

So, as you can see, there’s a lot to consider! Let’s break it down a bit and talk about how to diagnose your particular palm.

What if I see brown leaves on my queen palm or majesty palm?

Canary Island Date palms or majesty palms can suffer from any one of the offenders mentioned above. But some pests or diseases do affect palm trees differently.
For example, Canary Island Date palms are vulnerable to Texas Phoenix Palm Decline (TPPD) also known as Lethal Bronzing, a disease that yellows palm leaves in its early stages. But you can likely rule out TPPD on your majesty palm, which isn’t on the shortlist of common tree targets.

The fact is, a problem with palm leaves is less about the kind of tree you have and more about the care you give it.

Should I cut off brown palm leaves?

If just the tips of your palm tree’s leaves are brown, don’t pull out the pruners just yet.
“Brown tips are a sign of a stressed tree that has a chance at bouncing back,” said Rich Wiland from Davey’s Naples, Florida office. “You can actually do your tree a disservice by jumping the gun and removing leaves that aren’t completely dead.”
That being said, full-on brown leaves should be pruned to keep your palm looking and feeling healthy. If you need a little help deciding when or how to prune your palm check out this blog post.

How to help palm trees with brown, drooping leaves

OK, let’s run through the ways to help your troubled palm tree one by one.

First things first, remember that yellow leaves sometimes appear as part of a palm’s natural growth process. As long as yellow leaves are only in the bottom of the canopy, and the top is nice and green, your tree is alright.
If you suspect Mother Nature isn’t at work, next stop is the soil. Soil that’s dry to the touch points to a dehydrated tree, but over-saturated soil can also make leaves change color. For a happy medium water your palm tree before the soil hits a dry spell, and monitor the amount of water going in by using the deep watering method.
Palm tree soil is also where you’d find any nutrient deficiencies that are hurting your plant. To pinpoint the problem, your tree needs a soil test, which you can do yourself or have a professional arborist handle. The results will tell you what nutrients your plant soil is lacking so you can find a fertilizer to fill the gap.
And, last but not least, a palm tree suffering from pests or diseases needs an arborist’s attention. The fix might be as simple as applying an insecticide, but it’s hard to recommend what treatment will work without getting a good look at the tree.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *