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Trees - The Palms

( Originally Published 1927 )

Palms are tropical plants related to lilies on one hand and grasses on the other. One hundred genera and about one thousand species compose a family in which tree forms rarely occur. A few genera grow wild in the warmest sections of this country, and exotics are familiar in cultivation, wherever they are hardy. The leaves are parallel-veined, fan-shaped, or feather-like, on long stalks that sheath the trunk, splitting with its growth. The flowers are lily-like, on the plan of three, and the fruits are clustered berries, or drupes.

Sago, tapioca, cocoanuts, and dates are foods de-rived from members of this wonderful family. The fibres of the leaves supply thread for weaving cloth and cordage to the natives of the tropics, where houses are built and furnished throughout from the native palms.

The royal palm, crowned with a rosette of feather-like leaves, each ten to twelve feet long, above the smooth, tall stems, is a favorite avenue tree in tropical cities. In Florida it grows wild in the extreme southwest, but is planted on the streets of Miami and Palm Beach. Its maximum height is one hundred feet.

In California the favorite avenue palm of this feather leaved type is the Canary Island palm, whose stout trunk, covered with interlacing leaf-bases, wears a crown of plumps that reach fifteen feet in length and touch the ground with their drooping tips. Huge clusters of bright yellow, dry, olive-shaped berries ripen in midsummer.

The date palm of commerce, once confined to the tropical deserts of Asia Minor and North Africa, has been successfully established by the Government in hot, dry localities of the Southwest. Fruit equal to any grown in plantations of the Old World is marketed now from the Imperial and Coachella valleys in California, and from orchards near Phoenix, Arizona. Dry air and a summer temperature far above the hundred degree mark is necessary to insure the proper sugar content and flavor in these fruits, which are borne in huge clusters and ripen slowly, one by one.

Fan-shaped leaves plaited on the ends of long stalks that are usually spiny-edged are borne by the stocky Florida palmettos and the tall desert palm of California, planted widely in cities of the Southwest and in Europe. Several genera of this fan-leaved type are represented in palm gardens, and in the general horticulture of warm regions of this country.

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