The Palm Tree: The Most Celebrated Tree in the World?

There are about 2600 species of Palms on this earth. Though originally they symbolized victory, peace and fertility, they now stand for the tropics, vacations and Hawaiian shirts.

In the Beginning
The Date Palm was used for food among other uses in Mesopotamian society. It provided a concentrated food source that could be carried on long journeys through the desert. Practically all parts of the palm have uses and the importance of the palm is mentioned numerous times in the Bible and the Qur’an.

And The Winner Is…
The Romans awarded palm branches to symbolize victory both in their wars and their games and palm fronds were laid as a sort of red carpet for Roman warriors returning from battle. The French honor the winner of their annual Cannes Film Festival with the Palm d’ Or which translates to Golden Palm in English. The University of Southern California even uses the palm in their motto Palman qui meruit ferat which is Latin for “Let him bear the palm who has deserved it.”

Religious Symbolism
The palm represents peace and plenty in Judaism while early Christians believed it stood for victory of the faithful over the enemies of the soul. Today’s Catholics still celebrate Palm Sunday by receiving a palm branch at their Palm Sunday service. A picture of a palm on a Christian tomb is meant to signify that a martyr is buried there. Palms represented long life to ancient Egyptians. The palm tree was even a sacred sign of Apollo in ancient Greece.

Modern History
The image of Los Angeles with palm trees is due to 18th century Franciscan monks cultivating them. The first palms in southern California were only located in spring fed oasis inside steep mountain ravines. Palms now adorn the national flags of Haiti, Guam, Malta, Paraguay, and Samoa along with the state flags of South Carolina and Florida. The Sabal Palm was designated as the state tree of Florida in 1953

Modern Symbolism
Think tropics and you picture a palm tree. Think of Southern California, Florida or Hawaii and you picture a Palm tree. Put a palm tree on a shirt and it becomes a Hawaiian shirt. In tattooing circles, a lone tree tattoo can signify a time of feeling alone or abandoned. Add a skull and it can signify a lonely death. Adding cherubs or flowers to a palm tree tattoo can mean a sense of goodness and a connection with heaven.

They’re Useful Too
There’s more to palm trees than dates and coconuts. Other byproducts include wax, jelly and wine. Not all palms are safe for us though; the Foxtail palm’s fruit is toxic to humans and every part of the Sago palm is poisonous to us and animals. The Wax palm which can grow to 200 ft. tall can produce wax used as a sealer or to add fragrance to candles. Oil Palms produce oil used for food products, cleaning products and even in the production of Biodiesel. The fruit of the Saw palmetto palm is used for a men’s prostate health supplement.

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