Reproduction Most palms are grown from seed. Once a palm tree reaches maturity, it begins reproducing by pushing out flowering structures. (The palm actually tells the stem cells which would normally grow into leaf material to instead grow into an inflorescence, which is the flowering structure. This is usually triggered by an increase of giberillic acid in the new cell growth.) These flower structures consist of either:
1)both male and female flowers on the same tree (monoecious)
2)or all male or all female flowers on the same tree (diecious).
If the female flowers on a tree are pollinated with male pollen of the same or similar species, they will slowly become seeds. These seeds consist of an outer skin, a fruity layer, and an inner seed.
FUN FACT: Some palm seeds are as small as a grain of rice (Dypsis manangarensis), while the seed of the Double Coconut Palm (Lodoicea maldivica) can weigh up to 45 pounds!
Fruit and Seeds A palm fruit must be cleaned before being planted . Once you remove the outer skin and fleshy fruit material (left picture: cleaned Coconut seeds), soak the seed in a 1:10 bleach and water solution for 20 minutes. Then rinse the seed and plant it twice as deep as the seed is tall. The soil should be composed of any combination of: peat moss, perlite (sponge rock), pumice, sand, or wood chips. Keep the soil moist, but not wet and in a warm location. Most palm seeds sprout in 4-8 weeks.
FUN FACT: Some palms, like the Mexican Dwarf Blue Palm (Brahea decumbens) sprout up to 5 years after being planted!
Once a palm seed sprouts, the first few leaves will likely look like blades of grass (picture at right). This is normal! As the palm grows, its leaves will begin looking more and more like it’s parent’s leaves. All palms spend the first several years producing a leaf crown (full ball of full sized leaves) and then begin forming trunk. Once the palm reaches its final height, it will slow down its growth, its leaves will begin shrinking, and then it will simply stop growing.
FUN FACT: Palms are actually considered by botanists to be complex grasses due to their growth habit.
Palm trees need four basic things in order to live:
The amount of each of these four things is dependant on where the palm originates from (its natural habitat). A Blue Hesper Palm (Brahea armata) thrives in full sun and low water, while a Ruffled Fan Palm (Licuala elegans) enjoys full shade and lots of water. The Blue Hesper Palm comes from the deserts of Arizona and Mexico, while the Ruffled Fan Palm comes from the rainforests of Vanuatu. If you are going to begin growing palms that are uncommon for your area, it is wise to learn about where they come from so you can duplicate their natural habitat as best as possible.