The Arecidae
Family Overview - Arecales

Arecaceae (Palmae) - the Palm Family

Diversity:  Mostly arborescent with some 'woody' vines and shrubs.  The family includes about 202 genera and about 2,600 species including many of economic importance in the tropics (betel nut - Areca, oil palm - Elaeis, coconut - Cocos, date palm - Phoenix).

Distribution:  Worldwide and centered in the tropics and subtropics. We have two genera with three species in Texas.

Floral structure:

Significant features:  Palms are a bit like cacti or bromeliads in that the family carries a suite of structural features that allow - in most cases - immediate recognition.  Given the lack of secondary xylem, arborescence is often the result of retained, lignified petiole bases.  Leaves - often expressed as a terminal cluster - are usually quite large (over 80 feet long on the African raffia palm - Raphia regalis) and compound (both pinnate and palmate) with sheathing bases.  The flowers are small, sometimes imperfect, and clustered into large, paniculate inflorescences that are usually subtended by a large foliar bract known as a spathe.  The most common fruit type is a drupe.  

Fruit and Floral Structure


double c image
Lodoicea maldivica seed from Wikipedia
Cocos nucifera - overview from Kohler's Medicinal Plants
Cocos nucifera - floral aspect from Kohler's Medicinal Plants
Cocos nucifera  - infructescence with spathe

Native Texan - Sabal minor - palmate
Metroxylon sagus - sago palm - Hawaii - pinnate
Elaeis quineensis - oil palm drupes


More information on the Arecaceae or Palmae

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