En EspaŅol
Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Mr. Smarty Plants - Is the palm tree a true tree?

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
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
2 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

Looking for a native mulberry tree for Woodlands, TX.
November 22, 2010 - Does a truly "native" mulberry tree exist and where can one get such a tree. So many I've seen are "white" or "chinese" and were imported for a never-to-happen silk industry. I'd like to pur...
view the full question and answer

Plants for area around pool in Plano, Texas
October 13, 2009 - I just built an in ground pool in Plano, Texas and now want to landscape around it on my own. I am curious what plants/shrubs you recommend. There will be plants/shrubs on three sides of the pool. ...
view the full question and answer

Planting under Walnut Trees in Harrisville, MI.
July 22, 2009 - I have 2 50+ yr old Black Walnut trees in Northern Michigan (zone 4). I am planting a new bed (raised of course) and was considering adding a hydrangea. I am curious if this will thrive due to the jug...
view the full question and answer

Wispy plant to put behind a waterfall
May 30, 2008 - Needing a 10-20ft wispy ______ to plant behind our waterfall to help block out road noise. We live in Austin. I've looked at the Mexican weeping bamboo but are there other options?
view the full question and answer

Toxicity of Fan Tex Ash tree to horses
July 22, 2012 - Is the Fan Tex Ash tree toxic to horses?
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center