Types of Palm Trees

Palm trees are one of the most easily recognizable tree types around. Just about anyone can identify a palm tree by sight. Being able to distinguish between the wide varieties of palm trees is another matter all together.

Palm trees are generally categorized into two types based on their leaf structure: palmate and pinnate. The palmate has leaves that stretch out from central hub like fingers. The pinnate, which comes from the Latin word pinna which means feather, has separate leaflets extending on either side of a central stem.

Aside from the difference in their leaf types, palms also vary in how tall they grow and how cold-hardy they are. Palm trees are thought of as warm weather, even tropical plants. Many can survive temperatures as low as 20 degrees Fahrenheit. One variety even prefers partial to full shade in spite of their sun-loving reputations.

Here are some of the palm trees and some of their distinguishing characteristics.

Palmate Types

Lady palm trees are the shortest of the palms with a mature height of just 4 to 8 feet. They prefer shade to filtered light and are able to withstand temperatures of 22 degrees Fahrenheit. Because of their small size they are desirable for indoor gardens or to use as potted plants.

Puerto Rican Thatch palm trees reach 25 feet at maturity. They prefer full sun and temperatures no lower than 28 degrees. The underside of the leaves has a silver color that shows well in the sunlight.

Silver Saw Palmetto palm trees are the in-between tree in the palmate category with a mature height of 15 to 20 feet. This variety also prefers full sun and temperatures no lower than 20 degrees. Often grown as shrubs or hedges but due to the bristles on the leaves and stems, it should not be planted near walkways.

Australian fan palm can reach 80 feet and is often used along roadsides. This variety is drought-tolerant but prefers to be kept moist.

Cabbage palm tree is the state tree of Florida and can skyrocket to 90 feet. The Cabbage palm peers high water tables and grows well in marshes, swamps and coastal areas.

The Washington palm has a height range of 50 to 80 feet and adjusts to wet or dry soil conditions. It is also known as the Mexican Fan palm. It is drought-tolerant and adapts well to many climates.

Florida Silver palm reaches 25 feet and is used ornamentally in many landscaping designs. It is resistant to drought and has a high tolerance for salt making it a good seaside choice.

Pinnate Type

Mountain Cabbage palm trees are the dwarfs of the pinnate family with a mature height of 25 feet. With a preference for full sun, they can withstand temperatures of 20 degrees. Native to the Caribbean Islands and South America, this tree prefers some humidity.

Queen palm trees soar to heights of 50 feet and require full sun. They are hardy to temperatures of 20 degrees.

Date palm trees also reach 50 feet at maturity. Requiring full sun, Date palms can withstand temperatures of 18 degrees, the lowest temp of all the palms.

Royal palm can achieve heights of 100 feet. It is an ornate palm with a regal air. Native to cypress swamps, this variety of palm prefers sunny conditions and adequate watering.

Cuban acrocomia palm possesses a thorny trunk which grows to 50 feet. It does best in sandy soil. It grows best in the extreme southern parts of Texas, California and Florida as it is sensitive to cold. This tree’s canopy spreads to 25 feet.

Cane palm trees only reaches 20 feet but is adaptable to indoor or outdoor environments. It grows in a cluster with feathery looking leaves.

MacArthur Cluster palm grows well in clusters and attains a stature of 25 feet. It is suited to indoor or outdoor gardens.

Butia palms are a slow growing variety that reaches 10 to 20 feet at maturity. Its leaves are a light green to bluish grey.

There are so many varieties of palm trees that one is sure to suit your purposes. Select a tree that will do best in the location you have chosen. Take into account the potential height of the tree as well as its sunlight and water needs. Carefully considering these elements will help you choose the best tree for your garden or landscape.


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