The Palm Tree by the London Reading Book

These beautiful trees may be ranked among the noblest specimens of vegetation; and their tall, slender, unbranched stems, crowned by elegant feathery foliage, composed of a cluster of gigantic leaves, render them, although of several varieties, different in appearance from all other trees. In some kinds of palm the stem is irregularly thick; in others, slender as a reed. It is scaly in one species, and prickly in another. In the Palma real, in Cuba, the stem swells out like a spindle in the middle. At the summit of these stems, which in some cases attain an altitude of upwards of 180 feet, a crown of leaves, either feathery or fan-shaped (for there is not a great variety in their general form), spreads out on all sides, the leaves being frequently from twelve to fifteen feet in length. In some species the foliage is of a dark green and shining surface, like that of a laurel or holly; in others, silvery on the under-side, as in the willow; and there is one species of palm with a fan-shaped leaf, adorned with concentric blue and yellow rings, like the "eyes" of a peacock's tail.

Palms of Arimathea.

The flowers of most of the palms are as beautiful as the trees. Those of the Palma real are of a brilliant white, rendering them visible from a great distance; but, generally, the blossoms are of a pale yellow. To these succeed very different forms of fruit: in one species it consists of a cluster of egg-shaped berries, sometimes seventy or eighty in number, of a brilliant purple and gold colour, which form a wholesome food.

South America contains the finest specimens, as well as the most numerous varieties of palm: in Asia the tree is not very common; and of the African palms but little is yet known, with the exception of the date palm, the most important to man of the whole tribe, though far less beautiful than the other species.