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Characteristics of a Palm Tree

Palm trees consist of many varieties and species depending on the location they are found. The palm family of trees is classified with the taxonomy name Palmae or Panamea. The family consists of approximately 1,100 species with two classification types: pinnate and palmate. Pinnate varieties have feather-shaped leaves, while the palmate varieties have fan shaped leaves. The natural habitat for palm trees is tropical areas.

Growing Conditions

Southern Florida and Southern California are the only natural palm tree habitats in the United States. In these areas, many have been planted along roadways and residential areas for the appealing tropical look. Palm trees do not tolerant cold temperatures and vary in the amount of sunlight needed. They tend to moist soil to dry, desert conditions. Palm trees will not tolerate frost because it weakens their defense system, allowing disease and insects to set in. The cabbage palm tree found in the United States reaches a height up to 80 feet, while the saw palmetto is a thicket bush palm that reaches approximately 10 feet. Before purchasing a palm tree, verify its growing height and its soil and sun preferences to make sure it will fit into your landscape design.


A palm stem is a long, cylinder tube, many times without branches. The various species of palm vary in stem size, with some being smooth and others having remnants of previous branch growth. The branch remnants appear as dry, paper-like bark on the trunk of the tree. Stemless varieties are similar to a large bush. When a stem does not exist, branches grow directly out of the ground in a cluster form.


The leaves of palms are found in an equal distance apart on the spine of the branch. The individual leaves either run up the spine of the leaf branch or branch in a fan shape from the end point. The fan-shaped palm branch and leaves are what most people picture as a palm tree. In some species, young leaf growth produces a leafy food item called the palm cabbage.


Many species of palms are unisexual, with the flowers of both sexes produced on the same tree. The flower genders are not always produced in the same year. One year the tree may produce male flowers and the next, female. Some varieties of palms produce flowers only once in their lifetime. Pollination of palm flowers occurs through wind or insects. The pollinated flowers form the palm fruit, which is commonly a date or coconut.


The seeds of the palm are a mass of endosperm with a very small embryo inside. The seed endosperm in a date fruit is the hard inner stone. A coconut endosperm is the white fleshy area of the fruit.

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