Palms are one of the best known and most widely planted tree families. They have held an important role for humans throughout much of history. In the past palm trees were symbols of victory, peace, and fertility. Many common products and foods come from palms. Now they are often used in parks and gardens that are in areas that do not have heavy frosts.
There are about 2600 species of palm trees, most of them living in tropical, subtropical, and warm temperate climates. But like many other plants, some palms are in danger of dying out because of human activity. The greatest dangers are from Increasingly large cities, mining, and turning forests into farmland.
Palm trees are a botanical family of perennial lianas, shrubs, and trees. They are the only members of the family Arecaceae, which is the only family in the order Arecales. Palms first appear in the fossil record around 80 million years ago, during the late Cretaceous period. Some descendants from that period are still to be seen today, such as the nipa palm or mangrove palm.
Most palms are a straight, unbranched stem, but sometimes a branching stem, or even a creeping vine, such as the rattan. They have large evergreen leaves that are either ‘fan-leave’ (palmate) or ‘feather-leave’ (pinnate) and arrange in a spiral at the top of the trunk. The date palm not only provide a concentrate energy food, which could be easily store and carried along on long journeys across the deserts, it also created a more amenable habitat for the people to live in by providing shade and protection from the desert winds. In addition, the date palm also yielded a variety of products for use in agricultural production and for domestic utensils, and practically all parts of the palm had a useful purpose.
Apart from the well-known coconut and date, there are other kinds of food from palms. Palm oil, Sago, heart of palm and palm wine are all eaten or drunk in different parts of the world. Palm oil is use in everything, from cosmetics to food ingredients. Coir is a coarse, water-resistant fibre from the outer shell of coconuts.
The palm branch was a symbol of triumph and victory in Roman times. The Romans rewarded champions of the games and celebrated success in war with palm branches. Jews also had a tradition of carrying palm branches during festive times. Early Christians used the palm branch to symbolize the victory of the faithful over enemies of the soul. In Judaism, the palm represents peace and plenty. The palm may also symbolize the Tree of Life in Kabbalah. In modern times the palm especially the coconut remains a symbol of tropical island paradise.
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