Kids may not realize there are many interesting features of the palm tree. There are thousands of species, many preferring the warmer climates of the tropics. The palms that grow in the United States are typically found in the warmer southern and western states, including Florida and California. Palms have symbolic meanings, are depicted on flags, and differ in many ways, including size and shape.

Palm trees (Palma sp.), low angle view
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A low-angle view looking up at palm trees.

Tallest

Waxpalms in Colombia
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Andean Wax Palms growing on a hillside near a home in Columbia.

The Andean Wax Palm, the native tree of Columbia, is one of the tallest palm tree species. It has a relatively small trunk compared to its height; the diameter of an adult tree measures 16 inches and it can grow as high as 200 feet. The wax from this palm is used to make candles. The scientific name for this palm is Ceroxylon quindiuense.

Smallest

Rhapis excelsa bush
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A potted lady palm in the garden.

One of the smallest species is the Rhapis excelsa or more commonly called the Lady Palm. It only grows to a height of 10 feet with a 1-inch diameter trunk. The Lady Palm originated in southern China.

Oldest

Date Palms
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Date palms bearing yellow fruit.

The Phoenix Dactylifera, the Date Palm, is one of the world's oldest palm trees. It has been growing in parts of the Middle East, Asia and the United States for thousands of years. Some cultures refer to this palm as the "tree of life." The Date Palm is regarded as a holy symbol and has been mentioned in several religious writings. The fruit of this palm is only produced by the female trees. The Date Palm tree is the second most common and useful palm tree, the coconut palm is the first. Some Date Palms live more than 200 years.

Largest Leaves

Palm trees, Puerto Rico
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A row of Raffia palms growing in the tropics.

The palm tree with the largest leaves is the Raffia Palm. It is native to the tropics of South America and the Indian Ocean islands. Most Ruffia palm tree leaves generally grow between 2 and 20 feet long and 1 to 4 feet wide. Some Raffia Palm leaves can grow as long as 70 feet and as wide as 19 feet.

Flag Symbols

Backlit Palmetto
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A close-up of a Sabal Palmetto palm.

The Sabal Palmetto palm is the state tree of Florida and South Carolina and a symbol on both state flags. The palm tree is also a symbol on the official flag of Guam, a territory of the United States since 1898.

Miscellaneous Facts

Holiday Paradise
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Shady palm fronds grow from the bud of a palm tree in white sand on a Caribbean beach.

The leaves of palm trees are called fronds and grow from the main bud located at the top of the palm's trunk. Palm trees will die if this main bud becomes damaged. While the trunk diameter of most trees grows larger as the tree ages and grows, the palm tree's trunk does not. The palm tree simply grows taller.