En EspaŅol

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
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
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

Smarty Plants on Diospyros virginiana
July 29, 2005 - Diospyros virginiana (common persimmon) is, from what I understand, a host plant for the stunning Luna Moth caterpillar which supposedly can occur this far west. Your database entry for Diospyros do...
view the full question and answer

Trees for shade in Austin
May 20, 2012 - I live in Austin and I am looking for a good tree to plant under a large live oak I have in my backyard. Something slow-growing of course and, the garden only gets late day sun for about an hour. Filt...
view the full question and answer

Japanese maple in New York
August 15, 2008 - I have a few questions: Do you know what zone Brooklyn, NY. is in? If I plant a Japanese Maple in my backyard, do you think it can tolerate almost full shade (1-2 hours of sun per day)? Also, is it...
view the full question and answer

Hiring a landscaper in New Jersey
July 28, 2008 - Soon I will be hiring a landscaper to plant a privacy line of arborvitaes with a 1' retention wall and I need some help on prices. The quote I was given, which included 48 arborvitaes (and I will ac...
view the full question and answer

Advice on planting Korean dogwood (Cornus kousa) in Vancouver, BC
October 26, 2007 - I live in the Vancouver, BC - Pacific Northwest area and the front of our yard faces south to southwest. If I were to plant a tree other than an evergreen, would the Korean Dogwood thrive in this are...
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 | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center