Unlike oak, maple and mahogany, palm trees are soft stemmed trees that, despite their size, are more flexible than sturdy. Still, while palm tree wood may not be strong, it is surprisingly resilient and malleable. In fact, palm tree wood is used as an ingredient or building material in several manufactured goods, especially in areas where palms are abundant.
Indigenous populations use the palm tree for almost all their timber needs, since it is the most readily available source of wood. Palm trees are readily used as a building material for house walls, rafters and roofing. The fibrous wood is pulled apart and woven together as thatch for roof covering and small posts are fashioned for hanging hammocks. This fiber is also woven to make the carpet and wall coverings and the leftover is salvaged for forage, fertilizer and firewood.
Of course, communities also require common constructions and, for many indigenous communities, palms are easiest and best material to work with. Palm tree wood is used in bridge construction as well as utility poles, sign posts, walkways and public buildings. For community defense, the wood from palm trees is used in spear construction as well as the manufacture of bows and arrows.
Local Industrial Products
Use of palm tree wood is not limited to indigenous peoples. Palm tree wood is used in several small scale industrial products that are distributed in areas where palm trees are common and the infrastructure for small scale mass production is available. Palm tree wood is pressed to extract oils for soft drinks, cooking, preservative, syrup and soap. The wood fibers are used in hats, parquet flooring, and hammocks and the wood itself is used to construct wicker furniture. Often, palm tree chips are used to fuel the factories that refine these products.
Although the export of palm products is not as common as hardwoods, some byproducts of palm tree wood are still in demand. Some particle board is made with palm wood and palm wood oils are used to make resins, dyes and finishes. Some bio-fuels are made from decaying palm tree wood, and the soft stemmed tree's fibrous wood is processed into paper pulp.
Sean Russell has been writing since 1999 and has contributed to several magazines, including "Spin" and "Art Nouveau." When not writing, Sean helps maintain community gardens in Silver Lake and Echo Park, California. Russell also worked extensively on the restoration and rejuvenation of public parks in Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi after damage from 2004-2005 hurricanes.