Palm trees are the ornament of tropical areas. The large, compound, evergreen fronds on the top of an unbranched trunk is a familiar view in tropical and subtropical regions of the world. They are commonly found in Africa, Asia, Central America, South America, and the Pacific islands. In the United States, they can be found in Hawaii, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, and the southern-most parts of Florida.
Palm trees are monocots and belong to the Arecaceae plant family. There are 181 Genera and 2,600 Species of the palm worldwide. The leaves of the palm trees are present in two forms, Pinnate or Palmate. The cold-hardy Palms have Palmate leaves while tropical Palms have Pinnate leaves.
In this lesson, we are going to learn about the root system of Palm Trees and their functions.
Roots of Palm Tree
Roots of the Palm trees have very distinct characteristics as compared to the other tree species. Palm trees have ‘fibrous root system.’ The roots of the Palm are not deeply rooted in the soil. They are spread over the soil like a mat and penetrate nearly 36 inches of topsoil. We can even see these roots if the tree is planted in shallow soil. Palm tree roots have a preference for sandy soil which makes them easy to uproot. This is the reason we see most of the Palm trees being blown over in strong winds.
Unlike the taproot system found in most of the tree species (having one main root from which the thin lateral roots arise), the roots of the Palm trees arise from the base of the tree and are morphologically similar. These roots do not widen as the tree lengthens, instead, they grow with the same girth regardless of the age or length of the Palm tree.
Roots of the Palm tree grow horizontally at a greater distance from the trunk but they remain within the top 12 to 36 inches of the topsoil. For example, the roots of Palm tree species like Royal, Bismarck, Bailey, and Canary Island date palms, grow up to 50 feet away from the trunk. These roots remain thin as they increase in length.
Can Roots of the Palm Tree damage underground pipes?
It this often seen that the large and thick roots of many trees lift the concrete and damage the underground pipes. But the roots of the Palm trees do not cause any such damage to the concrete or the underground pipes. The reason is that since the roots remain in the topsoil around the Palm trees, they do not penetrate deep into the soil to reach the pipes. Also, because these roots are thin, they do not tend to cause any damage to the concrete. However, in some cases, the roots reach the underground pipes and get entangles them. This only occurs in the case of large Palm trees. In that case, while transplanting the tree, it is very important to cut the tree from the trunk instead of uprooting it, which may cause damage to the underground pipe system.
Maintainance of Palm Tree Roots
Although Palm trees are mostly found in the tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world, we can easily grow one in our backyard if we have adequate knowledge about the type of the Palm Tree and the length of its roots. However, it is very important to give special attention to the tree.
The roots of the Plam trees need moisture and nutrients to feed their long, thick trunks and their large fronds as well. So, after you plant a Palm tree, make sure that you keep it well watered to satisfy its water requirements. To ensure that the water requirements of the roots are fulfilled, you can wrap a soaker hose around the root area to keep the soil around the roots moist.
It becomes your responsibility to make sure that the plant also meets its nutrient needs, that is, magnesium, iron, and manganese. These nutrients protect the fronds and keep them from yellowing. Watering the plant before the roots are fully grown is also an important measure to make the Palm tree survive within its first few months. Only after the roots are matured, you can minimize the watering process to 15 minutes twice a month.
There are 2600 species of Palm Trees present across the globe. Some of the major ones include;
- Coconut Palm Tree (Cocos nucifera)
- Date Palm (Phoenix dactylifera)
- Areca Palm (Dypsis lutescens)
- Queen Palm (Syagrus romanzoffiana)
- African Oil Palm (Elaeis guineensis)
- California Palm (Washingtonia filifera)
- Mexican Fan Palm (Washingtonia robusta)
Let us take a look at the Root system of the Coconut Palm Trees.
The Root System of Coconut Palm Tree
Coconut Plam trees are grown for various commercial purposes. Coconut is used as a fruit and oil while the Palm fronds are used for decoration.
The roots of the Coconut tree thrive on sandy soil and moisture like other Palm tree species. These roots grow shallow on the soil surface and only a few are rooted deep for nutritional and water purposes. The roots of a Palm are of fibrous type like other Palm tree roots which are a characteristic of some grass species.
The number of roots per Coconut Palm tree depends upon its age as these roots keep growing to form the base of a stem throughout its life. An average of 3,600 roots can be produced by a Coconut tree which is 60 to 70 years old.
Functions of Palm Tree Roots
Since Palm Trees have long trunks and large fronds, their roots have a major role in keeping these structures moist and provide them with a certain amount of nutrition. Let us discuss some of the important functions of the Roots of a Palm Tree.
- Roots of the Palm Trees absorb moisture from the surrounding soil and keep the Palm hydrated.
- They also absorb dissolved minerals in the form of magnesium, iron and manganese which are necessary to prevent the fronds from yellowing.
- They conduct the absorbed water and nutrients up to the length of the trunk and to the fronds to keep them green and fresh.
- These roots are responsible for stabilizing and anchoring the long trunk of Plam Trees.
- These fibrous roots are responsible for binding the sandy soil around them by gripping the soil particles with the roots.
- The roots of Palm Trees can also be used to treat urinary infections, gall bladder and various kidney problems. Boil 4-5 roots in water and, then, drink the water once it cools down. People suffering from Fibrosis need to boil 3-5 finger long pieces of roots and drink it for a few days. It helps to melt the clotted blood. Palm Tree roots are also used to treat heartburns.