En Español

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
3 ratings

Thursday - December 18, 2008

From: Las Vegas, NV
Region: Rocky Mountain
Topic: Trees
Title: Is the palm tree a true tree?
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Hello, There has been constant debate here about the Palm Tree. I'm in Las Vegas and I have heard everything from it not being a true tree but a cacti or a giant thistle?! I've tried to research it but I'm unable to find anything except that it's a Palm.. well I know that! So would it classify as a true tree? If not where does it fall? Where can I learn more? Thank you! :o)

ANSWER:

Here is the definition of a tree from our Glossary of Botanical Terms:

"A woody perennial plant having a single main stem or trunk which generally grows more than 20 feet tall."

Palms are woody perennials with a single main stem and when they surpass 20 feet, they do qualify as a tree.  They aren't cacti (Family Cactaceae), nor thisties (Family Asteraceae), nor even agaves (Family Agavaceae).  They are in the Family Arecaceae (Palm Family). Their botanical family was formerly called Family Palmae or Palmaceae, but plant taxanomists, in their infinite wisdom, changed the name to the now accepted Family Arecaceae.  You can read more about the Arecaceae.

Here are a few members of the Family Arecaceae that are native to North America:

Sabal mexicana (Rio Grande palmetto)

Sabal minor (dwarf palmetto)

Sabal palmetto (cabbage palmetto)

Washingtonia filifera (California fan palm)

Rhapidophyllum hystrix (needle palm)

You will notice that not all palms qualify as trees (e.g., Sabal minor and Rhapidophyllum hystrix).


Sabal mexicana

Sabal minor

Sabal palmetto

Rhapidophyllum hystrix

 

 

More Trees Questions

Central branches on Texas Ash have died
June 09, 2015 - I have a Texas Ash tree that was planted about 4 years ago. It seemed fine last summer and was well watered. This spring, when it started leafing out, the central branches at the upper part of the tre...
view the full question and answer

Eastern redcedar uprooted by snow in Arlington, TX
February 14, 2010 - During the recent snowstorm one of our juniperus virginiana fell over with the rootball looking intact and with a lot of soil all around it.Should we try to save it? It is approximately 20 feet tall ...
view the full question and answer

Growing Chilopsis in Florida
July 25, 2013 - I live in St. Johns County, FL between Jacksonville and St Augustine. I live inland, not near the beach. I bought a small desert willow plant in Victoria, TX and brought it back to FL to grow. I plan ...
view the full question and answer

Live oaks lifting up sidewalks in Palm Coast FL
December 12, 2013 - My live oak trees roots are lifting up my side walks. Can I cut just the roots that are causing the problem without hurting the trees? Thank you.
view the full question and answer

Red oak leaves have a swelling along the veins
June 17, 2015 - I have red oaks in my back yard, approx 30 or more have a disease that are wilting the leaves. Looking at the back of the leaf there is swelling along the spines. I've gone to one nursery in town ...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center