Not everyone agrees that a palm tree is a tree but, the notion that palms are considered grass might also seem peculiar. We researched what type of plant is the palm to find the truth about this and put your mind at ease.
Palm trees belong to a major group, or class, of flowering plants called monocots. Grass is a fellow member of the monocot class, and so are corn, rice, lilies, and orchids.
You might be surprised to learn that palm trees are in the same plant class as grass. Let’s take a closer look at how palms grow, the structure that enables them to reach great heights, and what the significance of palms means to us.
How Are Palm Trees Similar to Grass?
You might not initially notice the similarities when you look up at a towering palm tree and then down at a minuscule blade of grass. But, plants that are members of the monocot class share several observable characteristics.
So, on second look, take note and pay particular attention to these plant characteristics that can be found on both palms and grasses of different varieties:
- Roots - Both palms and grasses have adventitious root systems that spread broadly throughout shallow soil to anchor the plant.
- Stems - The palm’s trunk is the stem of the plant. Differing varieties of palms and grasses each produce either a solitary stem-like Queen Palm or bunched stems like the Everglades Palm.
- Leaves - All of the veins of a palm leaf, or frond, begin at the base of the leaf and run parallel to the length of the leaf, just like the veins on grass leaves.
- Flowers - When flowers bloom on palms and grasses, the parts of the flowers produced, petals and stamens, are typically arranged in sets of three or sets that are divisible by three.
Now that you know what to look for, not only can you impress your friends with your knowledge that palms and grasses are in the same class but, you’ll also be able to identify other types of monocots found in your lawn or neighborhood.
Do Palm Trees Have Rings?
When you look at the cross-section of a palm tree’s trunk, you won’t see annual growth rings like you would see inside the trunk of a tree. Palm trees do not produce cambium - an inner layer of actively growing cells between the tree’s bark and wood. As trees grow outwardly, new layers of cambium form the rings in the trunk.
The cross-section of the trunk of a palm tree looks porous, like a hardened sponge, because it is comprised of circular-shaped vascular tissue. Bundles of these tubelike cells are scattered throughout the palm’s trunk and used to transport water and nutrients throughout the tree as it grows upwards.
Not Wood; What Supports the Trunk of a Palm?
Palm trees do not produce wood or bark on their trunks. Overlapping leaves form the texture that you see on the trunk’s exterior. When palm leaves die, the tree naturally sheds completely brown, dead leaves. But, the hardened base of the leaves remains on the trunk. Layers of overlapping leaf bases provide the trunk with structure as the palm grows.
Palm trees have shallow, fibrous root systems that spread a wide radius around the trunk below the surface of the soil. This wide, underground base supports the trunk. Some palms also have prop roots, or stilt roots, that grow from the base of the tree directly to the ground.
Firm Cellular Structure
The vascular cells of palm trees contain large amounts of lignin, a substance found in plants that makes stems firm.
Can Palm Trees Break?
Palm trees are remarkably flexible because they lack the rigid structure typical of woody trees. Malleable clusters of vascular cells, grown closely together throughout the palm’s trunk, enable the palm to flex and bend in the wind. Flooding during a severe storm will be more likely to uproot a palm’s shallow roots than the wind will be at breaking the palm’s trunk.
What are Palm Leaves Used For?
The leaves, or fronds of the palm, are where all the growth of the plant-primarily occurs. New fronds are located at the top of the palm to form the canopy of the tree. Fonds of some palm varieties, like the Coconut Palm, can grow as large as 19-feet long and 6-feet wide. Large palm canopies provide shade to the sweltering ground below, but the individual fronds also have many other uses.
Woven together, fronds create a versatile thatching material. Diverse products can be made from thatching material because the sizes and texture of palm fronds vary.
Sturdy thatching material has many building applications such as:
- Shade Covers
- Temporary Shelter
Thatching material that has been woven from delicate palm fronds is typically used to create handicrafts such as:
Palm fronds also can be used for agricultural purposes. Freshly cut fronds can be fed to livestock. Trimmed or dying fronds are typically added to compost to fertilize the soil or used as a mulch.
What Does a Palm Leaf Symbolize?
Across diverse cultures, palm leaves have attained symbolic meaning as they have been historically used for religious, regal, and celebratory ceremonies throughout the world. Fronds can symbolize peace, resurrection, unity, fertility, and longevity.
Palm fronds have been used throughout the ages during processions. Laid on the ground beneath the feet of respected leaders and victorious warriors, the fronds are a welcoming symbol of victory.
In astrology, palm fronds appearing in dreams are recognized as a symbol that a dreamer is an open person, capable of rising above disillusionment.
The Tarot depicts the palm on the card of the High Priestess, who symbolizes the union of seen and unseen realms into one, balanced whole.
The next time you see a palm tree waving gently in the breeze, take a moment to rest in the shade of the canopy, admire the tree for its monocot characteristics, and think about what the palm means to you.