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Palm Tree Trunks

Sitting on a Bent Palm Trunk over Ocean

Palm tree trunks are absolutely amazing in their ability to bend and flex in hurricane force winds without breaking.

They don't all look the same though.

There are marked distinctions in the trunks of palms just like their leaves.

The trunks of palm tree can safely fit into a few basic categories:

Those covered with fibers or possibly spines, rough or smooth texture, single or multi varieties and those that have their trunk grow underground. 

There can be large differences in the ones that grow above ground even though they are in the same category. 

Trunks, Fibers and Spines

Let's take a quick look at the palm tree trunks that have fibers covering them.

There are quite a few and more often than not they belong to the fan leaf part of the family.

The windmill palm is has the fibers and spines. It's hard to tell exactly what the trunk looks like underneath.

Some of the rules of exporting trees like this--- is the trunk must be striped of the fibers before shipping.

 I think its probably to eliminate the chances of transporting insects or possible bacteria or fungus that may be living in the fibers.

Another great example is the " old Man Palm" It is called this partly because of the way the fibers look on the tree.

Both the fibers and the spines can be different lengths, colors and textures. It will all depend on the type of tree.

A tree famous for its spines on the trunk is the zombie palm. It is native here in the Dominican Republic.

It has a really neat design with the spines but I sure wouldn't want to brush up against it by accident.

Old Man Palm Trunk- Coccothrinax crinita

Original photo by Guettarda

Zombie Palm-zombia antillarum

Above: Zombie palm

Left: Old man palm

The terms single or muli trunks are pretty straight forward. There are many varieties that have both of these kinds in their family. Some good examples would be the bamboo palm or fishtail palm families.

The multi ones are also called clustering or clumping. Whole new trees spring up from the ground around the original creating a clump of trees.

Generally single palm tree trunks like the coconut don't have branches. But every once in a while there's a freak of nature.

Click here to see an article that shows 2 kinds of normally single trunked trees that have decided to branch more than once. They are quite interesting.

Twin palm Chahvarz Hadi Karimi
Palm Tree Store

Smooth Palm Tree Trunks

Now we’ll take the palm tree trunks with a smooth texture.

Most of the taller feather varieties are in this group with a few exceptions like the date palm.

Depending on which variety of date you are looking at they have both rough and smooth.

In general the royal, the coconut, and the travelers palms all have smooth trunks.

The appearances vary greatly from really tight, thin close rings to further apart and thicker.

Each ring is left after the leaf has fallen or been pruned off.

Tight Smooth Palm Trunk
Coconut Palm Missing Piece.
Christmas Tree Palm Trunk Rings
Semi Smooth Palm Trunk

The biggest difference in palm tree trunks compared to ones like pines and maples is there are no branches. This means no knots. They don't have growth rings inside either.

What does it look like when you peel off the bark?

The wood underneath doesn’t have any imperfections in it.

Tiger striped look of a young coconut palm trunk.

Tiger Striped Palm Trunk

Same kind of tree but younger. The leaf fibers still attached.

Leaf Fiber Still Attached to Palm Trunk

Only as recent as 1997, an Australian company did some excellent research and development into palm, and more specifically coconut palm wood.

They found that once it was cured (dried) it was actually an extremely hard wood- harder than oak and with no knots, or rings.

The closer you get to the center of the tree trunk the softer the wood becomes, although even the center is pretty darn hard after drying.

Blonde Smooth Coconut Tree Wood

You can really get a good idea

of the different textures and

colors of coconut palm wood.

Wood Grain of a Type of Coconut Palm

It’s unlike any other wood because it's extremely flexible due to the high silica content.

The trunks of older palms, and the ones used in fruit production, like the date or coconut palm, used to go out to the garbage.

They  weren’t recycled at all and considered waste.

Now the wood is used for everything from siding to floors.

The wood has a coloring anywhere from blonde to near black depending on which palm species it was harvested from.

Growing conditions and location will also play a part in what color wood you get.

Rough Trunks

Rough Palm Trunk
Diamond Pattern On palm Trunk
Odd Pattern In a Rough Palm TreeTrunk.
Rough Texture Of Sago Palm Tree

Its hard to tell, but the rough palm trunks will also have a smooth inner core after the old leaf bases are stripped off. The process is called skinning.

I would use careful consideration in trying this. Unlike other trees like maples or oaks, palms can't heal their trunks once they are damaged.

Others will sort of heal a wound by sealing it off. Palms can't so you'll have to be very careful not to damage them.

Peeling the bark itself from the tree will kill it. It's the trees protection (just like our skin) from weather, predators and anything else mother nature can throw at them.

As you can see these rough ones appear quite a bit coarser and thicker.

They do not have inner growth rings either.

These kinds of trunks are generally more susceptible to insects and rot.

Moisture collects there and insects can make a home in the deep crevices of the bark.

It is perfect environment for them that can cause substantial damage to the tree if not looked after.

It doesn’t really matter how you look at it palm tree trunks are all unique in their own way.

Consider the palm wood used to make the items below.

Maybe you already have some in your home and didn't even know it.

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Other articles you may find useful:

The other parts of the tree are equally important. To find out more look under information for a general look, or in each of these sections -leaves or fruit - for a more detailed look.

Background takes a look back into history. Do you now how long these trees have been around?

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