Palms in the wild and in cultivation
Palms are probably second only to the grasses in economic importance, providing all the basic necessities of human life from food and timber to medicine and writing materials. Commercially important palm products include palm oil, coir fibre, carnauba wax, rattans and true sago. Because palms are so useful, many wild stands are overexploited and some species have become almost extinct.
About 2,400 palm species are found in the tropics and subtropics. Their leaves are either pinnate (feather-shaped) or palmate (fan-shaped). The palm stem usually starts its growth below ground-level, increasing in diameter to a maximum, then the stem grows upwards, generally with a columnar trunk that does not increase in diameter with age. Thus palm trunks do not have growth rings and are very different in internal structure to the wood of familiar timber trees. The stem usually has a single growing point; if this is destroyed the stem dies. However, many palms branch below ground level and build up a clump of stems.
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Useful and ornamental palms