Palm trees are tall, beautiful and unique in the plant world, casting a tropical ambiance wherever they are found. These trees are used in a variety of ways, from medicines and food to paper products and natural remedies. Every part of the palm tree is useful, and as a result they have become extremely valuable to the world.
Stems and Leaves
The trunk of the palm tree is usually but not always tall and slender. Some palms have branching stems that make the trunk appear doubled or even tripled. Some palms have short stems, and the leaves look like they are growing right out of the ground. There are two kinds of palm leaves: palmate (fan-shaped) leaves and pinnate (feather-shaped) leaves. The groupings of leaves are always located at the top of the central stem or trunk. Fan-shaped leaves are like fingers on a hand--all branching out from a central unit. The feather-shaped versions are narrow leaves connected to a center stem.
Palm flowers make up the reproductive system of the tree. Pollen from the male flowers fertilizes the female flowers of another palm, leading to the formation of seeds. Pollen is transferred either by the wind or by insects that visit the flowers. These flowers are small, green, and monoecious (meaning that the individual plant carries both male and female flowers). However, the male and female flowers do not grow on the same palm at the same time. Generally, one palm will produce all female flowers in one year and all male flowers in another.
Fruit, Seeds and Roots
Palm fruits may appear as berries with hard inner stones or as coconuts with large, very hard outside shells. A palm fruit may also take the form of a hard outer shell with spines or scales. The fruit forms after the palm tree flowers, and the palm fruits contain the seeds of the palm tree. Palm roots have been used for millennia as a medicine for dysentery. They have, in the past, also been used as toothbrushes. When the root is crushed, its color makes an excellent dye.