20 May 2011

Palm trees (Arecaceae or Palmae)

Palm trees are such a common sight in Tunis and in the rest of Tunisia.  They are such magnificent trees, aesthetically very pleasing and have great shape.  In Tunis, they appear to grow in restricted conditions in urban environments with poor drainage and soil but still manage to thrive despite all this.

 Figure 1: An impressive avenue flanked by Phoenix canariensis on either side.  It is particularly pleasing that all the palms are at the same height and provide a sense of symmetry.

 Figure 2: Another example of Phoenix canariensis.  Unlike the palms in the first photograph this palm has been maintained.

 Figure 3:  The flowers of a species of palm.

 Figure 4: This species of palm is called Washingtonia filifera.

 "The palm family, is a family of flowering plants, the only family in the monocot order Arecales. There are roughly 202 currently known genera with around 2600 species, most of which are restricted to tropical, subtropical, and warm temperate climates. Most palms are distinguished by their large, compound, evergreen leaves arranged at the top of an unbranched stem. However, many palms are exceptions to this statement, and palms in fact exhibit an enormous diversity in physical characteristics. As well as being morphologically diverse, palms also inhabit nearly every type of habitat within their range, from rainforests to deserts.

Palms inhabit a variety of ecosystems. More than two thirds of palm species live in tropical forests, where some species grow tall enough to form part of the canopy and shorter ones form part of the understory.  Some species form pure stands in areas with poor drainage or regular flooding, including Raphia hookeri which is common in coastal freshwater swamps in West Africa. Other palms live in tropical mountain habitats above 1000 meters, such as those in the genus Ceroxylon native to the Andes. Palms may also live in grasslands and scrublands, usually associated with a water source, and in desert oases such as the Date Palm. A few palms are adapted to extremely basic lime soils, while others are similarly adapted to very acidic serpentine soils.
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