Palms, Arecaceae: “Palm Family”
What would our Desert be without the palm tree?
So let’s talk about palm trees!
The Palm Tree:
With its tall, slightly curving trunk festooned with a topknot of bright green fronds, it is a ubiquitous and iconic image that calls to mind associations both frivolous (tropical vacations, cartoons of desert islands) and sacred (Palm Sunday, 30 mentions in the Bible, 22 mentions in the Koran).
In the world of horticulture the palm represents an ancient plant form that first appeared in fossils dating back 80 million years, during the late Cretaceous period when dinosaurs were still walking around. We refer to them as palm “trees,” but botanically speaking they aren’t trees at all.
Palms don’t have bark or woody tissue.
The palm grows from the center up! The vertical growth of palms comes from just one growth point, the “heart” or the apical meristem, at the tip of the trunk. If this point is badly damaged or removed, the plant cannot continue to grow and will die.
Palms are perfect if your garden space is limited however check your palm type and make sure that the palm will not outgrow the space.
Left: A dry garden in California’s Coachella Valley, designed by Marcello Villano, pairs fan palm and golden barrel cactus with varieties of yucca and aloe.
We have some beautiful palms here in the Coachella Valley!
How to Keep It Alive
Good drainage is essential to a palm’s happiness.
Young palms often do better in partial shade or dappled sunlight.
Most palms like rich soil with plenty of organic material.
Pruning is usually unnecessary except when clipping off dead fronds for cosmetic purposes; this should be done with caution as some palms continue to take nourishment from fronds long after they appear to be lifeless.
Keep your palm well watered until it is established.
Which palm trees do you like the most? Where in this desert have you seen some beautiful palm trees?
Further Reading on Palm Trees: