If you have palm trees, you’ve probably wondered whether it’s a tree or a grass. This is quite a valid and popular question among several gardening enthusiasts. So, we did some research on your behalf to get a conclusive answer about this.
So, are palm trees grass?
Palm trees typically originate from a primary class of flowering plants known as the monocots. Surprisingly, grass belongs to the same class just like rice, wheat, and corn. Some flowers like orchids too belong to this category.
Because palm trees belong to the same class or category as grass, many often classify the plant as grass. In the following sections, we will learn more about how these trees grow and thrive. Additionally, we will study the structure of these plants that allows them to reach such lofty heights.
Are Palm Trees a Type of Grass?
Palms are not technically grass but they belong to the same primary class as grass. Known as monocots, several other plants (both flowering and non-flowering) fall under this category.
Grasses belong to the Poaceae family, while palms belong to the Arecaceae family. The defining quality of the class is that, unlike dicots, monocots come with a single cotyledon.
Grass has a single cotyledon and so does your palm tree. That is why it is often characterized as grass in some places and not as a kind of tree. In the next section, we will learn in detail about the shared features of palm trees and grass.
How Are Palm Trees Similar to Grass?
At this point, you already know that palm trees are similar to grass because they are both monocots. But you will also find a bunch of additional similarities, that we discuss further in this section.
Roots: This is one of the biggest similarities between palm trees and grasses. Both come with an extensive root system that is broadly spread across the soil underneath. The root alone provides a solid anchor to both palm trees and grasses.
Stems: The trunk of your palm tree will also serve as the plant’s stem. Varying types of plants and large grasses typically have a solitary stem. Perhaps the most prominent example would be Queen Palm or the Everglades Palm which comes with a bunch of stems.
Leaves: If you observe a palm leaf, you will notice that its veins start from the leaf base and move parallel across the leaf’s length. The same applies to the grass leaf veins, further adding to the similarity.
Flowers: Every time you find palm trees blooming with a new set of flowers, the petals of the flowers will be arranged in a set of three or any other number that can be divided by three. Grass leaves follow the same pattern and are thus characteristically similar to palm trees.
Remember, the similarities we talk about may not be visible to you at the very outset. In fact, it is often quite difficult to believe these similarities when you compare the lofty trees to the tiny glass blades. But then again, as they are both monocots, the plants have shared features that you will clearly observe.
Because we discussed these similarities in detail, you will probably find it easier to notice the similarities the next time you look at a palm and grass of different variants.
Why Do We Refer to the Palm Trees as a Tree?
As you probably know at this point, palms belong to the Aceraceae family which is a group of blooming monocots. Grasses, shrubs, and a bunch of vines belong to the same family. But why do we define palms as trees instead of grass in that case? Well, this entirely depends on the form of the plant.
Unlike grasses or shrubs that are tiny, palms are lofty, and many assume tall heights if they are allowed to thrive properly in a tropical area. Also, unlike grasses, palm trees feature massive compound leaves that are also evergreen.
Collectively known as the palm fronds, you will find them beautifully set at the unbranched stem of the tree. Also, palms are extremely diverse, and they can thrive in multiple areas ranging from rainforests to dry and adverse deserts.
So, should we call Palm a tree?
Whether you define a palm as a tree entirely depends on your definition of trees. Like any other tree, the Palm has been crucial to humans since the beginning of time. You will find several grocery and other products created from palms.
What’s more, nowadays, palms are also utilized for landscaping projects which makes them economically viable. In certain cultures, it was also consumed as food and symbolized several positive traits like victory and peace.
Unlike grasses, palms appear like trees and they also offer multiple benefits like a tree. That is why many individuals still categorize this plant as a tree.
Do Palm Trees Have Rings?
If you observe the cross-sectional area of the trunk of a palm tree, you wouldn’t notice the growth rings that are otherwise observed on tree trunks. In most tree trunks, these growth rings are visible annually.
So, why don’t palm trees have rings? Well, this is primarily because the palm doesn’t produce any amount of cambium, which is an internal layer thriving between the bark and wood of your tree. As you find your tree growing in an outward motion, several layers of cambium will develop on its trunk.
Unlike a tree, the cross-sectional area of palm trees is fairly porous. On closer observation, they will resemble a hard sponge because they are crafted from a form of circular vascular tree tissue. You will find several bundles of these tubular cells around the trunk of the palm.
These tubes help transfer water and other nutrients as the tree start thriving. So, even though palm trees do not have those cellular rings, they have a self-devised system to get ample water which further enables them to thrive.
How Long Do Palm Trees Live?
The average lifespan of palm trees tends to vary depending on the species. Usually, most palm trees growing in a conducive environment (in tropical or sub-tropical regions) can live between 7 to 10 decades.
For instance, the average lifespan of a Mexican fan palm tree is more than 100 years, if they grow in an optimal environment. Coconut palms, on the other hand, have a slightly shorter lifespan ranging from 8 to 9 decades.
Like the Mexican fan palm, the date palm trees also have an excellent lifespan going up to a whopping 100 years. However, these palms are often seen falling because of their lofty height. In some cases, the falling starts even before they reach their prime. In that case, their lifespan will be cut short by a couple of years.
Even though the majority of palm trees have an excellent lifespan, you will find some variants like the Areca palm that barely sustains for four decades. The same applies to several indoor palm trees that have a considerably shorter lifespan.
One of the primary reasons attributed to this short lifespan is the height of the palm. Because indoor palms are much smaller, they also don’t live as long as their loftier cousins.
Understanding your palm tree’s age
At times, it is extremely difficult to ascertain the correct age of palm trees. In case you have planted the tree manually, it is best to record the date manually as well. However, if you want to understand how old a pre-planted palm is, you need to follow some other creative hacks.
According to most dendrologists, a reliable and viable way to assess your palm tree’s age is by counting the scars on its frond. If observed carefully, you will notice that palms tend to shed the old fronds as they mature. So, if you count these fronds, you can easily ascertain when the tree has assumed maturity.
As mentioned already, palm trees do not come with rings like other trees. That is because the trunks of these trees are typically a stem and not a trunk. They, therefore, do not contain wood and are just a large tissue system.
Where Are Palm Trees Native To?
Palm trees have been originally found in parts of India, North Africa, and other southeast Asian countries. Depending on the variant of the plant, you will also find some of them in the South Pacific region.
The origin of these trees tends to differ according to species. For instance, the coconut palm is divided into two varying origins which are Indo-Pacific and Atlantic. Alternatively, the iconic Date Palm can be genetically and historically traced back to Egypt.
Nowadays, you will find several Palm in trees in multiple regions including (but not limited to):
- Southeast Asian Countries like India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh
- Several parts of Asia
- Pacific Islands (South)
Usually, the plant will thrive well in tropical to subtropical regions and they are thus found abundantly there. If the tree is hardy, it might thrive in some cool regions, however, low temperature will affect its leaves and fronds, eventually causing the palm to die.
Both palm trees and grass are monocots and as stated earlier, they come with multiple similarities. However, we still call palm a tree because of their lofty height and woody barks that many monocots do not enjoy. Either way, now that you have your questions answered, grow palm trees abundantly at home and follow the right guidelines to keep them thriving.