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Oil Palm Tree

The oil palm tree, as you probably guessed produces oil of the edible kind from its fruit.

You may think it is only grown for the purpose of farming, but you'd be wrong. They also make some wonderful specimens for your landscape as well.

The production of biodiesel is also a main reason for the growth of these trees in many countries around the world.

There are a couple of different species of this palm belonging to the Elaeis branch of palms. Two specific ones are the most common.

One is the Elaeis guineensis commonly referred to the  African oil and the Elaeis oleifera the American oil.

African Oil-Elaeis guineensis

African Oil Palm-Elaeis guineensis

American Oil Elaeis oleifera

American Oil Palm-Elaeis Oleifera

original photo found here

There is some cross-breeding going on between those 2 kinds. The hybrids are being tested for increased production and disease resistance among other things.

Oil Palm Tree Appearance

The oil palm solitary in nature and displays feather leaves of green to deep green. There is no crownshaft.

The leaves can get to 15 feet in length in mature trees. They are armed with some larger spines near the leaf stem closest to the trunk.

The trunk can get up to about 2 feet thick and is usually a dark brown/to gray color depending on sun exposure.

There's a triangular/ diamond type of pattern left by the older fallen leaves.

The trees are either male or female so there needs to be some cross pollination to get the fruit.

The fruit sill differ slightly depending on the variety of tree. It will be a deep red to an almost black color when it's ready for harvest.

Oil Palm Tree Flowers

Oil Palm Flowers-above

Oil Palm Fruit-right

Oil Palm Tree Fruit

Oil Palm Tree Growth

The oil palm tree is actually a medium to fast grower once it is established.

That's what makes it great for city and landscapes, along with it's straight up trunk.

Starting it from seed though is very difficult.

Could be over 2 years and maybe not even then.

Quick Info: African Oil Palm

  • Minimum Temp 32 F, 0 C
  • 50-60 ft tall 20-25 ft wide, single trunk
  • moderate to fast growing, full sun
  • Any well drained, slightly acidic soil with humus for moisture retention
  • Only slightly drought and salt tolerant

With this tree there is no guarantee any seeds will sprout.

You may just want to get one that is already growing in a pot instead.

Getting close to 60 feet tall and in excess of 20 feet wide, make sure the spot you have picked out is large enough to accommodate it once full size.

The African oil has only a slight drought and salt tolerance. That being said adding some water retaining material to the soil will help with that. It prefers soil on from neutral to slightly acidic in the pH level.

Keep in mind that it will fair much better with a regular water and fertilizer schedule.

The oil is a great stand alone type tree. Use it as a centerpiece or as a street tree. There's no need to hide it by planting extra around the bottom.

Plantation and Nursery

Indonesia and Malaysian are stripping land and planting oil palms just to get in on the market.

This is leading to concerns over the green house gas emissions’ that are produced from the factories.

The processing of the fruit for biodiesel and the overtaking of land that was once jungle and rainforest.

Oil Palm Tree Nursery
Oil Palm Tree Plantation

Just as with our North American corn industry, more crops are used for the biodiesel production than for any food based commodity. 

Some of the other concerns are over the waste of the leaves and trunks of the trees once they are done being used as a viable producing plant.

Palm Oil Factory in Malaysia

Palm Oil Factory

Europe is showing concern about the massive planting and processing of the oil palm tree and I understand their concern.

But I also understand the poorer countries wanting to get in on the action of the green energy craze.

There's a lot of money that can be made from it.

I think with more education on the environment and more Eco friendly planting, harvesting and processing-these countries would be willing to do things a better way.

Some poorer countries don’t have any other export that even comes close to the money made from biodiesel.

You can’t blame them for wanting “a piece of the pie”.

Want to know more click here to read an article outlying some global concern.

Oil palm trees are beautiful specimens that produce plenty of fruit.

Similar to the date and coconut palms in that their fruit is harvested all throughout the year.

I bet you eat palm oil regularly and don’t even know it.

It’s an ingredient in mayonnaise and salad oil.

That would be the red palm oil that is full of beta carotene.

It is made from the pulpy fleshy outer shell around the palm kernel.

That is the most healthy kind of edible oil on the market today.

Cut Open Oil Palm Fruit Showing Kernel

Oil Palm Tree Fruit Cut Open

There is another type of oil made from the kernel or the actual seed of the fruit.

It is high in saturated fat and not nearly as good for you, so it is used in producing soap and other cleaning products.

If you use Sunlight or Palmolive soap, then you have experience with palm oil.

After the oil goes thru a refining and bleaching stage, it is then used as an ingredient in many soaps and cleaning products.

The oil palm tree is definitely a super producer for humans and a landscape beauty.

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Other articles you may find useful:

Commercial palms takes a closer look at what kinds of palms are used and for what.

Palm trees have many uses for different people all over the world and they are discussed here.

Pruning palms covers what, when and how to trim. Care covers the basics.

Fertilizing explains what to look for, how to read the numbers, calculating the correct amount and where to apply.

Planting shows best practices for getting your next tree off to a great start.

Growing has maps of the plant hardiness zones, explains soil pH, sun requirements and other commonly used landscaping terminology.

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