Palm trees are plants of exceptional beauty. Its stipe (what we would call trunk) grows upwards as if it wanted to reach the sky, and its precious leaves flutter with the wind every time it blows between its leaflets, even its flowers, which are grouped in highly branched inflorescences, make the ornamental value of these vegetables will only increase.
I admit it: I am in love with these plants. But maybe you are too, or will be soon. Because, in this special article we are going to talk at length about them: their characteristics, types, main species, uses, ... and more.
Table of Contents
- 1 What is the origin of palm trees?
- 2 Are they trees or herbs?
- 3 What are the characteristics of palm trees?
- 4 Main varieties
- 5 How are they cared for?
- 6 Palm tree problems
- 7 What are they for?
What is the origin of palm trees?
This type of plants began to inhabit planet Earth approximately 145 million years ago, during the Cretaceous. At that time, huge reptiles inhabited the planet: dinosaurs, which shared the territory with placental mammals, that is, with those animals that protect their young within the placenta until they develop enough to be able to live in the outside, like us humans.
The fight for survival must not have been very easy for the palm trees, since many dinosaurs basically fed on grass, such as the Supersaurus, which reached 15 meters in height. If we take into account that today the tallest palm tree, the Ceroxylon quindiuense It measures about 60 meters, has a very slow growth (about 20cm per year when young), of ten seeds that should have germinated, only one or two survived.
Are they trees or herbs?
It is often thought that talking about palm trees is talking about trees, but that is a mistake. These plants are herbaceous, and that is something that we can see as soon as the seed germinated: unlike trees, which have two cotyledons (two first leaves), palm trees only have one, which is what gives it the appearance of grassy lawn. This means that they are monocotyledonous plants. But the differences do not end here.
Monocots do not have a true trunk, since they do not have a true secondary growth, so that, when cutting it, you would not see the annual rings that trees and other dicotyledonous plants do have. In the specific case of our protagonists, the trunk is called a stipe or stem. What's more, leaves have visible veins, which are parallel.
What are the characteristics of palm trees?
Palm trees are a type of plant that belongs to the botanical family Arecaceae (formerly Palmae) distributed throughout the temperate and warm regions of the world. About 3000 species are known, and all of them (or most) have these parts:
- Roots: they are superficial, which means that they develop a few centimeters -no more than 60cm- from the soil surface.
- Stipe: it can be ringed or smooth, with the rest of the leaves dry or without. There are some species that do not have it or have it very short, such as the Australasian hare or the Wallichia densiflora.
- Inflorescences: if they are new, they are usually protected by spathe. Once they are opened, they are called spadices.
- Capital: is the part that joins the stipe with the leaves. In the event of it being cut, the plant would die as leaf growth arises from it.
- Crown or cup: it is composed of the leaves or fronds that can be pinnate or fan-shaped.
Writing about the 3000 species of palm trees in a single article would be impossible, so I am going to tell you about the ones that are easier to find in nurseries and online stores.
La Areca Nut or Bethel Palm, as it is sometimes called, it is a monoecious palm tree - there are male feet and female feet - native to Asia and Oceania. It has a rapid growth rate until it reaches 30 meters in height.. Its trunk thickens up to 30cm in diameter, and is crowned by pinnate leaves up to 3m in length with 2-3cm wide dark green leaflets.
Regrettably, it is very sensitive to cold and frostAnd if you grow it in an area where the temperature in summer rises above 30ºC, you have to protect it from direct sun. However, you can be indoors as long as you are in a room where there is a lot of light coming from outside.
Known as the Wax palm or the wax palm of Quindío, is a native plant of the Andean valleys of the Los Nevados National Natural Park, located in the Cocora Valley of the Department of Quindío, in the coffee region of Colombia. It is the tallest palm tree, being able to reach 60m and even exceed them. The leaves are pinnate, dark green on the upper side and silvery or greyish on the underside. The trunk is cylindrical, smooth, and covered with wax.
Due to its origin, it is a species that can only grow well in areas where the climate is temperate-cold all year round. The temperature in its place of origin oscillates between 12 and 19ºC on average, so in hot climates its growth rate slows down a lot (in summer nothing grows if it exceeds 25ºC). But it supports well the frosts of -8ºC.
La Lounge palm or Pacaya It is a dioecious palm (the female and male flowers are in the same specimen) of 2-4m high it has pinnate leaves 40-60cm in length. It is native to Central America (Mexico, Guatemala and Belize). It is a plant with a single trunk that is sold in pots with several seedlings (as you can see in the image above).
It is a very easy plant to grow, which you can have in a pot decorating your home for many, many years, even throughout the life of the plant. But if you want to keep it out You must protect it from direct sun and frost below -2ºC..
El Palm hearts o Margallón is one of the two Palms native to Spain, specifically from my land, the Balearic Islands, being found above all in the Sierra de Tramuntana (north of Mallorca). It also grows naturally in North Africa and Southwest Europe.
It is characterized by having multiple trunks up to 3-4 meters high which are crowned by fan-shaped leaves, and by its incredible resistance to drought. What's more, withstands cold down to -7ºC and grows quite well on poor soils.
La Red stem palm tree It is one of the favorites, but also one of the most delicate. It is a multicaule plant native to Sumatra, which He is 12m tall and it has pinnate leaves 2-3m long. The stipe is very thin, barely 15cm in diameter.
It is very, very sensitive to cold: temperatures below 10ºC seriously damage it. In addition, it needs a high humidity and to be protected from direct sun.
This is the palm that we know best as Areca or Yellow Areca, but we should not be confused. Other names it receives are Palma de Frutos de Oro, Palmera Bambú or Palma Areca. The Dypsis lutescens It is a multi-stemmed palm tree - with several trunks - native to Madagascar. Its leaves are pinnate, 2 to 3m long, and its trunk is ringed measuring 4-5m high.
It is relatively easy to care for, since it is well resistant to weak frosts down to -1ºC as long as they are punctual and of short duration. This is very interesting, since when growing it indoors we will not have to worry too much about the cold air currents that enter when we open the door. Of course, it needs a lot of light (but not direct).
La kentia it is one of the most cultivated palms indoors. It is endemic to Lord Howe Island, which gives it the name of the genus to which it belongs (Howea). It grows to about 15 meters in height, with a simple and ringed trunk of 13cm in diameter.. The leaves are pinnate and long, up to 3m.
Due to its slow growth and beauty, it is often kept in a pot for years, both indoors and in the semi-shady patio or garden. Resists frosts down to -5ºC without suffering significant damage.
One of the two autochthonous palm trees of Spain. The Canary Island Palm or Canary Island Palm it is endemic to the Canary Islands. Its leaves are pinnate and can be 5-6m long. The trunk is very thick, up to 3m in diameter at its base, and grows to 10m tall. It is often planted in gardens and parks.
Resists frosts down to -7ºC without problems, so that you can have it outside in an area where it is in direct sunlight.
La date palm or támara is a species of great economic importance due to its fruits: dates. It is believed to originate from Southwest Asia, but today it has become naturalized in North Africa, and one could almost say that in the Mediterranean region as well.
It is a multicaule plant that reaches 30m high whose trunk measures 20 to 50cm in diameter. The leaves are pinnate, glaucous green. Due to its size, in addition to its fruits, it is highly recommended to have it in the gardens, since withstands drought and cold down to -8ºC.
How are they cared for?
Now that we have seen the main species, let's see what general care they require. It is important that, depending on the variety, it may need a little different care, so if you have questions ask 🙂:
- Location: generally they have to be put outside. Most grow well in full sun, but there are others that need protection.
- Soil or substrate: whether they are kept in a pot or in the garden, it is important that the soil has very good drainage and is rich in organic matter.
- Irrigation: about 3 times a week in summer, and once or twice a week the rest of the year.
- Planting or transplanting time: in spring, when the risk of frost has passed.
- Multiplication: by seeds in spring or summer, introducing them in a hermetically sealed bag with vermiculite and placing them near a heat source (it must not exceed 30ºC), or by separating the stems in spring.
Palm tree problems
- Red spider: it leaves white dots or spots on the upper part of the leaves, and a spider web can be seen. It is treated with Abamectin or Dicofol. (See file).
- Mealybugs: they settle on the leaves and stems, causing yellow spots to appear caused by suction. They are treated with an anti-scale insecticide.
- Red weevil: The larvae of this weevil grow while feeding inside the capital, increasingly weakening the plant. One of the first symptoms is the deviation of the central leaf. You can also suspect that it has if you see the bitten leaves, fibers that come out of the stipe. It is fought with Imidacloprid and Chlorpyrifos, (one month one, and the next the other) during spring, summer and autumn. (See file).
- Pink rot: necrotic spots appear on the stems. Older leaves die very quickly, yellowing first and drying out later. Preventive treatments can be done with Triforin.
- fusarium: the basal leaves acquire a yellowish gray tone, until finally it dries up and the plant dies. It can be treated with Benomyl.
- Phytophthora: is responsible for many young plants dying. The leaves dry quickly until, on the least expected day, you pull them up and they come out very easily. It can be prevented by avoiding waterlogging and doing treatments with Fosetil-Al.
What are they for?
To decorate the gardens and patios, of course 🙂. No, they are not only good for that. There are many species that produce edible fruitsLike Phoenix dactylifera what have we seen or the Cocos nucifera (coconut tree). The leaves are used to build roofs in many regions, in addition of to make household tools, and also for work in the field.
With the sap, which is released when cutting the leaves and inflorescences of some species, drinks are prepared, like palm wine. Oils, margarine, honey and soap are obtained from some fruits.
Thus, it is about plants of singular beauty that are very useful for humans. What do you think of palm trees?