I love, love, love palm trees. Probably because it reminds me of warm, tropical vacations. Sadly, I live in a temperate climate where palm trees don't grow - but the plus side is it's a treat to see when when I go somewhere tropical. To that end, here's our list of the most common types of palm trees found around the world.
What makes a palm tree a palm tree (short answer)?
It’s an evergreen tree (yup) with no branches but instead a bunch of long feathrered shaped leaves crowning the top. They grow in warm regions. There are about 2,600 species worldwide. We set out the more common types of palm trees below.
The 9 main types of palm trees (short answer):
- Date palm
- Zombie palm tree
- Windmill palm
- Foxtail palm
- Caranday palm
- Spindle palm
- King palm (several types)
- Florida thatch palm
- Triangle palm
- Coconut palm
See below for detailed explanations about the above.
Interesting (gruesome) fact debunked: Falling coconuts kill 150 people worldwide each year meaning you have a 15 times better chance of being killed by a falling coconut than by a shark. This was a widely publicized fact but according to Coconutinformation.com it’s not true. I’m not sure debunking the coconut death stat is comforting but there you have it.
Let’s admit it – tropical paradises are everyone’s dream, and the image of a palm tree immediately indicates that it’s the ultimate relaxation destination. Just imagine going to a dream vacation to a sandy white beach surrounded with coconut palm trees and relaxing/unwinding under the shade of those palms.
People often think that palm can only be found on an exotic beach or on the set of Pirates of the Caribbean. But you’d be surprised that they can be found in a variety of other environments too.
Palm trees are much more than shader providers on your well-earned vacation. However, these strong and sturdy trees, capable of even withstanding multiple hurricanes a year. Palm trees are often referred to as “the tree of life” because they prove to have so many uses to humans.
Their coconut fruit is used for making chutneys, syrups, oils, juices, vinegars, milks, water, and even medicine. The rest of the tree can be used for furniture, jewelry, fuel, and even materials for construction.
So if you’re curious to learn more about these wonderfully resilient and varying super trees, keep reading!
From the Arecaceae Family
What is a Palm Tree (long, detailed explanation)?
Did you know that not all palm trees are actually “trees”? Also, not every palm tree is really a palm. These evergreen, sturdy plants can be grown in a shrub form or woody vines known as lianas. And that’s not all.
Most palms grow in one solid trunk with no extending branches, and palm trees also exhibit two different kinds of leaves – pinnate and palmate.
Pinnate leaves are comprised of a bunch of smaller leaflets all growing from either side of the main stem of the leaf.
Palmate leaves are those that resemble an open hand — like lobes all growing from one common stem.
How Many Different Kinds of Palm Trees are There?
If you thought that we were done with the fascinating facts about palm trees, then think again. Research shows that there are about 2600 species of palm trees; and the majority of them are planted in tropical, subtropical, and warm regions.
Later on we’re going to dive in to the 9 most common palm trees found around the world!
Where did Palm Trees Originate From?
It is said that the age of palm trees could even rival the Sphinx found in Egypt. There’s a possibility that the date palm (which we’ll expand on later) was first cultivated a baffling 6,000 years ago in the Mesopotamian era. The reason for this hypothesis is due to the fact that it’s known that dates were an integral part to humans’ diet at that point in time.
According to Garden Guides, there has been discovery in Northern Iraq of ancient date palm seeds that are 50,000 years old!
If we go back even further, there are even fossil records of date palms that are an estimated age of 56 million years. Needless to say, palm trees are apparently an incredibly resilient variety of tree.
Where do Palm Trees Grow?
Like we mentioned before, it is common to think that palm trees can only be found in super tropical regions. But if you’ve ever been to Florida or South Carolina, you will definitely have seen a surprising amount of palm trees.
Outside on the United States, palm trees are naturally grown all over the Middle East and north Africa. This is includes Iran, India, Pakistan, Peru, Mexico, Australia, Chile, and China.
Palm trees like to grow in very sandy soil with abundant sunlight, high humidity, and very high heat.
How do Palm Trees Reproduce?
There are two ways in which palm trees reproduce, which will depend on what type of palm tree you’re looking at. These two ways are by either rooting offsets, or from seed pollination.
Certain kinds of palm trees develops branch or rooting offsets (otherwise known as vegetative reproduction) which makes a duplicate of the mother plant, kind of like a clone, which develops into its own plant.
Otherwise, palm trees reproduce from seed pollination. Some kinds of palms have both female flowers and male flowers on the same tree, whereas others have different gendered trees. In both cases, palm trees are wind pollinated or pollinated by other pollinators.
Once pollen drops onto the female flower, it becomes fertilized and the seed starts to develop in her ovary. That ovary wall produces a fruit that then surrounds the seed. It’s important that this fruit is developed in order to properly carry the seed away from the mother plant.
Fun Fact: some types of palm trees take 40 years to flower for their first time!
What Fruit Grows on Palm Trees?
The fruit the grows from palm trees are actually referred to as drupes – which is fruit which a very fleshy outer layer. The two types of fruits that palm trees grow or either coconuts or dates.
Which Palm Trees Have Coconuts?
There are several different kinds of coconut palm trees that produce coconuts:
- Chowghat Orange Dwarf Coconut Tree
- Malayan Dwarf Coconut Tree
- Macapuno Coconut Tree
- Fiji Dwarf Coconut Tree
- King Coconut Tree
- East Coast Tall Coconut Tree
- West Coast Tall Coconut Tree
- Maypan Coconut Tree
- Panama Tall Coconut Tree
- Jamaican Tall Coconut Tree
Which Palm Trees Have Dates?
There are several different kinds of date palm trees that produce dates:
- Dwarf Date Palm Tree
- Cape Verde Palm Tree
- Date Palm Tree
- Mangrove Date Palm Tree
- Ceylon Date Palm Tree
- Senegal Date Palm Tree
- Pygmy Date Palm Tree
- Cliff Date Palm Tree
- Indian Date Palm Tree
- Cretan Date Palm Tree
Why are Palm Trees so Strong?
They are aerodynamic marvels. Palms have a trunk growing a bunch of large leaves on top, without branches and a broad leaf canopy, letting the wind whistle through more easily. Each leaf also has one large midrib, allowing the fronds to all fold up like a paper fan in the wind. If the leaves are ripped off the tree grows replacements.
Strangest of all, palms are actually related to grasses and don’t have the woody structure of most trees. Slice through a palm trunk and it’s fairly homogenous without any yearly growth rings of wood. Instead, they have slender, tough strands embedded in lots of flexible tissue, making them much bendier.
Palms also have lots of small roots spread out into the top layers of the ground, which hold on to more soil and makes a much heavier base that helps the trees stand upright.
These adaptations to fierce winds are particularly striking in the species of palms adapted to growing in hurricane prone regions, such as the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean, rather than in less windy places such as the rainforests of South America.
1. Date Palms
Scientifically known as Phoenix dactylifera, date palms are prized to be one of the ancient forms of palm trees (as we previously stated in the Where Did Palm Trees Originate section!). As common sense rightly suggests, date palms are the palm trees that boast dates – a delightful and nutritious type of food that’s loved in the Middle East.
Date palms are commonly valued as they are a rich source of food in warm and harsh climatic regions. These trees possess the ability to grow fast and large, providing shade and food in deserted lands. The dates produced on a palm tree last longer than any other fruits in any other kind of a tree. Plus, they are able to survive severe droughts and scorching temperatures.
An old Egyptian once said that “a date palm is the only creation of God that resembles man. Unlike other trees, a date palm gives more as it grows older.”
It is believed that date palms can grow up to the height of 30 meters. They consist of sturdy, strong trunks that are filled with uneven scales. Its feather-shaped leaves can reach up to the length of 3-5 meters in length. According to researchers, around 10-20 leaves are grown every year in a date palm. These leaves stay abloom for several years after which they turn pale brown and fall off.
Date palm trees are subdivided into two types – male trees covered with staminate flowers and female trees filled with pistillate blossoms. In wilder areas, the pollen is carried from the male blossoms to the female ones through the wind. On the other hand, in the cultivated lands, pollens of male flowers are clustered together to the female blooms.
2. Zombie Palm Trees
Having the scientific name zombia antillarum, zombie palms are the most common type of palm tree. That being said, they are the only member of the taxonomic rank zombia present at the moment. Native to Hispaniola, where it grows on dry, arid hilly areas, zombie palms can reach up to the height of 3 meters and produces smaller crowns all around it.
As far as the physical appearance is concerned, zombie palms are slightly hideous which pretty much explains the reasoning behind its naming “zombie”. However, the zombie palm is intimidating only during its growing-up stages.
When it comes to admiring the tree, experts suggest looking at the beauty from a safe distance. Zombie palms grow out pointy spines like voodoo needles that can easily hurt the beholder.
These inimitable plants are capable to sport approximately twenty green leaves with white-hued flowers that produce round, attractive fruits. Another commendable feature of zombie palms includes their capacity to tolerate drought and their easy adaptability to where it is rooted.
3. Windmill Palm
Native to countries like Japan, China, Myanmar, and India, Windmill palm trees go by plenty of names such as trachycarpus fortunei (its scientific name), the Chinese windmill palm, Chusan palm, and simply windmill palm. It is one of the species of sturdy evergreen palm trees, belonging to the arecaceae family.
What sets windmill palms apart from the other kinds, is the fact that they are cold-tolerant. But that’s not all. They demand less maintenance and are pollutant and pest resistant too.
Along with these fantastic characteristics, the windmill palm is quite magnificent in its looks. Typically, it has fan-like huge leaves that are bunched together in a symmetrical order. This results in attractive foliage on the top of the trunk which easily grows up to 2-4 meters in its width.
Mind you, windmill palms are slow-growing plants. Hence, patience is the key when planning to cultivate your very own windmill palm. If you’re thinking to have a windmill palm in your house, make sure that there is enough space for it to thrive.
While it is said that a windmill palm can reach up to 30 meters, commonly it is seen at heights of 10 to 20 meters. So it is a perfect accent for your poolside, deck, or driveway. You can also grow out a windmill palm in a large pot on your porch or patio. It will cause you no trouble as it creates no wreckage and thrives well in both partial as well as full sun.
4. Foxtail Palm Tree
Wodyetia bifucata, simply known as the foxtail palm, is another popular palm species in the arecaceae family. This kind of palm tree was first originated in Australia, Queensland to be precise. According to botanists, this fast-growing palm is the only specie in the genus wodyetia.
According to the Palm and Cycads Societies of Australia (PACSOA), the palm tree is described as “Very attractive palm with long (2-3m) plumose leaves (hence the name ‘Foxtail’), and up to 10m tall with a grey trunk. It produces large (about the size of a duck egg) orange fruit.”
History tells us that the world wasn’t aware of the foxtail palm until an Aboriginal man presented it to botanists in 1978. The indigenous name of that Aboriginal man has been written down as “Wodyeti”. Therefore, the genus name of this specie is known as “Wodyetia”.
Owing to its wide range of varieties, foxtail palm trees have become a popular choice for plant growers in warmer regions of the world. As compared to other palm trees, growing them is relatively less difficult.
Once you successfully grow one, the end result will be a king palm-like trunk that is thin and smooth. It will further produce light to darkish green leaves with small white flowers (on the base of the crown shaft) and olive greens (that are green in initial stages and then turn orangey red when ripped).
5. Caranday Palm
With the scientific name as copernicia alba and common name Caranday, this palm tree is a rare species that originated in regions like Paraguay, Argentina, Bolivia, and Brazil. Due to its rarity, the Caranday palm tree or wax palm is quite an overlooked species of the Copernicia family.
While the palm tree has a slow to moderate growth rate and overall moderate drought and salt tolerance level, it has stunning physical attributes. The Caranday palm sports fan-like leaves that grow from its top trunk and are about 1 meter long. These leaves consist of tough spikes that generally fall off as the plants mature. Typically, the caranday leaves flaunt light green to light blue and silver.
The striking colors are not the only quality worth mentioning of the caranday leaves. These brilliant leaves produce wax that is used for making lipsticks, candles, and a few car polishes. Not only do the leaves of caranday palms come in handy, but their trunks do as well. They are commonly used for constructing dividers for fences, floors, walls, and phone poles.
During the fall season, wax palm trees produce yellow-colored fruits that deepen into an intense black shade as they ripen. These round fruits are edible in nature. However, they consist of bitter taste followed by initial sweetness.
With the passage of time, caranday palm trees have gained considerable popularity due to its high cold tolerance level (possessing the ability to sustain 25-30 degrees Fahrenheit). In addition to that, this palm tree is easy to maintain and is highly resistant to pests, debris, and diseases.
6. Spindle Palm
Often mistaken for the bottle palm and the champagne palm tree, the spindle palm tree – belonging to the plantae kingdom – is one of its kind. Like its relatives, spindle palms are considered to be endangered due to their habitat loss.
It is believed that there are only about fifty of these trees left in the wild. However, their chances of survival rate are greater because of its high cultivation rate in the tropical regions of the world. To further up their numbers, growing your very own spindle palm is a good option.
Also referred to as hyophorbe verschaffeltii or hyophorbe verschafeltii, spindle palms are exceedingly elegant-looking. They are famous for their out-of-this-world spindle shaped trunk that features V shaped and feathered bright green leaves.
Apt for both indoors and outdoors, spindle palm trees can grow up to the height of 2-4 meters. Note that spindle palms have a slow growth rate and require excessive moisture along with the full or partial sun.
They also produce scented floral (both male and female) in the region where the crown shaft meets the trunk. If you live in an area that experiences cold weather most of the year, then don’t hesitate to invest in spindle palms. Rest assured, spindle palms are absolutely cold resistant, making them ideal for growing in zones that have temperature from 30 to 35 F or above 40 F.
7. King Palm
Scientifically known as archontophoenix alexandrae, king palms are a common choice for plant growers in Southern California. It is considered to be one of the best palm varieties for South California. The palm tree is distinctly known for its multi-hued trunk, lush green fronds, and neat appearance.
Generally, the trunk is slim and smooth with a beautiful green colored shaft – a leaf base consisting of leaves roped around one another. King Palm trees not only grow strikingly bright green leaves, but during the spring season they flaunt eye-catching blooms that add to the wow factor to this palm tree.
These palm trees aren’t all about its beauty. In fact, they serve a functional purpose as well. King palms can prove to be the best plants to grow around pools, front yard, back yard, or in some tropical landscapes. Having them in your front porch will provide you shade from the scorching sun.
While these palms grow slow, they require little to no maintenance at all. If this is the quality you are searching for in a plant, then King Palms is an apt plant choice. King Palms come in three different varieties, having similar names such as the Alexandra King, Bangalow Palm (Piccabeen Palm), and the purple variety.
a. Alexandra King
The Alexandra King happens to be the largest king palm as it is known to grow up to the height of 24 meters when found in the wild. Usually, their trunks grow out to be a meter wide in colors from gray to white.
When it comes to their leaves, they are in the darker green shade with silver undertones. Unlike most palm trees, Alexandra king is a medium to fast grower, producing white-hued flowers (both male and female) that generally are 1 meter in length.
b. King Bangalow Palm Trees
One of the most striking differences between this type of palm tree and the rest of them is its flower sprays. There are a generous amount of flowers that can found just below the crown shaft, spreading around the trunk easily. The flowers produced appear to be in a variety of colors ranging from violet to light purple to red. Like Alexandra King, it produces flowers of both sexes (male and female).
While the abundance of flowers is this tree’s admirable feature, its trunk is not so though. The trunk of the King Bangalow tree is not as thick as other popular types of palm trees. The trunk is mostly 8 to 10 inches in diameter and features light brown to pale gray color. Unlike Alexandra, it is a short-heighted tree that takes time to grow properly.
c. Purple King Palm
Archontophoenix purpurea, or the purple king palm is the third last variety of king palm that grows in swamps in a forest. The palm’s appearance is as attractive as its other types – beautiful, colorful leaves with plenty of different flowers including roses as well. However, what makes it different from its counterparts is its nicely colored crown shaft. The palm’s crown shaft happens to be the tree’s best feature.
While the tree isn’t able to reach the height of Alexandra, it is able to grow a thick trunk – 18 inches in diameter. The palm originated in the higher elevation of Australia which is the reason why it fails to adapt to the warm, humid parts of the world.
8. Florida Thatch Palm
As the name suggests, Florida Thatch Palms are a Florida native that thrives in both warmer and coastal regions of South Florida. The most common part of Florida where you can spot these trees is the coastal highways of Southern Florida. Besides that, they can be a great accent to your Florida house, in the porch, at the entry, around a pool, as a privacy screen, in the garage, along the driveway, or under large trees.
This palm tree is known for growing out numerous trunk forms that take time to grow. This slow-grower tree can reach up to the height of 4-6 meters, having big fan-shaped leaves. Once it passes its growing stage, Florida Thatch Palm, develops a thin trunk that is fit for closed spaces. With time, it produces small fruits that can be an excellent source of food for birds.
When cultivating your own Florida Thatch palm, remember that these plants don’t require soil changes from time to time. Make sure that you plant them in moist areas where the soil is dry and dense. It is always ideal to fertilize three times a year (autumn, spring, and summer). Don’t forget that palm trees strive and thrive best in smaller spaces.
9. Triangle Palm Tree
Also called as dypsis decaryi, the triangle palm tree is indigenous to the Mediterranean rainforest. In these areas, it is quite common to grow these trees up to the height of 15 meters. Plant growers situated in North and South California prefer to grow triangle palm trees as they thrive better in these regions.
In addition to North and South California, Triangle palm trees perform well in Hawaiian soils. Like Florida Thatch Palm trees, these triangle-shaped trees are ideal for both warmer and coastal regions.
Owing to its unique landscape, this palm tree is an excellent choice for a variety of landscapes. Like many other types of palm trees, the triangle palm tree also produces fruits that boast a nice light brown color.
10. Coconut Palm
Coconut palm trees are part of the palm tree family (Arecaceae) and are the current only living species of the genus Cocos. The word palm refers to the long and distinguished leaves of the plant, whereas the word coconut (historically, cocoanut) refers to the fruit, or drupe, that grows on the tree.
Where can you find the world’s tallest palm trees?
The Colombian Andes in Los Nevados National Natural Park is the place that hosts the world tallest palm tree forest. To reach this enchanting forest it takes a 6 mile hike to get there, but once you arrive you’ll be stunned by palm trees that grow to be upwards of 60 meters high.
Where are palm trees native to?
Most palm trees found around the world like to grow in subtropical and tropical regions. They grow about 44° northern latitude to about 44° southern latitude. If you’ve ever been to Florida or South Carolina, you will definitely have seen a surprising amount of palm trees.
Outside on the United States, palm trees are naturally grown all over the Middle East and north Africa. This is includes Iran, India, Pakistan, Peru, Mexico, Australia, Chile, and China.
How fast do palm trees grow?
Depending on the variety of palm, they can grow anywhere from 6 inches to 1 meter a year! Relative to other trees, they actually tend to grow rather quickly since they have so much access to water and ample sun.
How long do palm trees live?
The average palm tree can live to be about 100 years old — this is due to the fact that they are extremely storm and draught resistant.
What do palm trees represent?
According to ancient texts from the Mediterranean world, palm trees represent peace, triumph, victory, and eternal life.
What states have palm trees?
The states in America that can naturally grow palm trees are: Arizona, California, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, and Texas.
Are palm trees natives to California?
Yes they are. Due to the all year round high temperatures, California is an ideal place for palm trees to dwell. California is one of the 9 states that grow palm trees naturally.
Are palm trees grass?
Palm trees are part of the plant family monocots, which also contains corn, rice, lilies, orchids, and you guessed it, grass! So they are not technically a grass, though the do tend to grow in a similar fashion. But they are part of the same plant family.
Are palm trees native to Florida?
Yes they are. Due to the all year round high temperatures, Florida is an ideal place for palm trees to dwell. Florida is one of the 9 states that grow palm trees naturally.
Are palm trees deciduous?
No in fact, they are considered as evergreen trees. They are evergreen because their leaves stay green all year long, and they shed their leaves regardless of the season.
Can palm trees grow anywhere?
No, they can not. Palm trees will only grow in tropical or subtropical regions where they can thrive in sandy soil, ample amounts of sunlight, and high moisture.
Can palm trees survive snow?
Although palm trees can survive an extremely random and infrequent snow fall, they will not survive in a region where the ground is frozen for weeks and months at a time.
Can palm trees grow in sand?
Palm trees prefer living in very fine and well drained soils. This is why sand is the ideal environment for palm trees to thrive. They will not grow in soils that are very dense and compacted.
How do palm trees survive hurricanes?
Palm trees are able to survive hurricanes because of their root system and shape.
Because their trunks are quite thin and flexible, they are able to simply bend under intense gusts of wind. Their canopy is also wide, and the leaves are shaped in order for wind to easily pass through.
They are extremely wind resistant a sturdy trees.
How do palm trees survive in the desert?
Palm trees are very clever when it comes to water absorption. They can survive in severe desert climates because they will only grow near a water source. If that water source were to go dry, they would then resort to extracting water from the fruit that they produce, or water that is always stored in their trunk and root system.
What palm trees stay small?
- Pygmy Date Palm.
- Bottle Palm.
- Sago Palm.
- Spindle Palm.
- Parlor Palm.
When do palm trees stop growing?
Each variety of palm tree has a maximum height that it can grow to for it to remain healthy. All varieties of palms kind of have an internal clock indicating when they’ve reached their full potential, and they will not grow any taller.
Why are palm trees so strong?
Palm trees are so strong because they have a widely spread root system, their trunks and bark are rather flexible, and the shapes of their leaves allow wind to easily pass through instead of pulling the tree in its direction.
Do palm trees clean the air?
The main function of trees is converting oxygen into carbon dioxide, so yes, palm trees clean the air just like all other trees do, simply by existing.
Do palm trees have deep roots?
They do not have particularly deep roots as they are in the same family as grass, which is the monocot family. The roots don’t grow deep, but they do tend to span out rather widely covering a lot of surface area.
Do palm trees need sun or shade?
Palm trees prefer full all day sun — that is why they tend to tower over all other plants and trees in the same area. That is also why they are only found in regions that have more sunny days a year than cloudy ones.
Palm trees come with innumerable uses as they provide food (date, nuts, and coconuts) and shelter, their trunks can be used for making wooden pieces, and they act as excellent landscapes. If you want to make the most of these (and more!) advantages, then have a look at these types of palm trees to decide which one of them will be ideal for you.