This section is from the book "Handbook Of Hardy Trees, Shrubs, And Herbaceous Plants", by W. Botting Hemsley. Also available from Amazon: Handbook of hardy trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants.
This noble family of arborescent plants unfortunately contributes but little towards the permanent decoration of our gardens in consequence of none of the species being perfectly hardy in our climate. But as some of the more robust species are employed in the sub-tropical garden during the Summer months, we must devote a little space to their consideration. With very few exceptions, the Palms have unbranched stems crowned with a tuft of usually very large leaves. The extreme forms exhibit two distinct kinds of foliage, though there are species having foliage of a somewhat intermediate character. There is the flabelliform or fan-shaped leaf, as in Livistona australis, syn. Corypha australis (fig. 221), a handsome Australian species with immensely large shining leaves and a trunk from 50 to 70 or more feet high; and the pinnate or feathery leaf, as in the Date Palm, Phoaenix dactylifera (fig. 222), which grows from 60 to 80 feet high, and is extensively cultivated in Northern Africa and elsewhere for its edible fruit. Before enumerating a few of the hardier species suitable for the embellishment of the garden in Summer, we will give the principal technical characters. The stems of
Palms, like all other Endogenous plants, scarcely increase in diameter, that is to say, they do not add to their size by concentric woody layers, but the trunk merely lengthens and consolidates as it unfolds new leaves. The flowers are either unisexual or hermaphrodite and individually small and inconspicuous, but commonly exceedingly numerous and arranged on large branching spadices enclosed in a foliaceous spathe, which opens when the flowers are about to expand. The entire inflorescence of some species is of immense proportions. The structure of the flowers is tolerably uniform, being composed of 6 perianth-segments in two more or less distinct series, and from 3 to an indefinite number of stamens. The ovary is superior and composed of 1 to 3 more or less combined 1- or rarely 2-seeded carpels. Fruit drupaceous or nucamentaceous, and often clothed with fibres or imbricated scales. Seeds albuminous, often large. The Date Palm mentioned above is best known to us through its dried fleshy fruits, the edible part being the pericarp or seed-vessel. Another fruit produced by a member of this family, and even more familiar than the Date, is the Cocoa-nut, the product of Cocos nucifera. Here the part eaten is the albumen and milk of the seed. The following are some of the best for withstanding the winds and other adverse influences which our climate displays even in Summer. 1. Species with fan-shaped leaves : Sabal Palmetto, S. umbraculifera, Chamaerops excelsa, Ch. Fortunei, Ch. humilis, and Livistona australis. 2. Species with feathery leaves : Jubaea spectabilis, nearly hardy; Seaforthia elegans, and various species of Phaenix and Gocos. We ought to mention, however, that scarcely any of these will retain their beauty except in warm sheltered localities. Chamcerops humilis is the only European species, and Ch. Fortunei, a native of China, is the only species sufficiently hardy to withstand our winters in the most favoured situations of the mildest parts of England.
Fig. 221. Livistona australis.
Fig. 222. Phoenix dactylifera.