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.
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.