Have you traveled, seeing palms so many places? Maybe unexpected areas? You looked up in wonder, thinking: where are palm trees native?
The palm family has five sub-families. Evidence shows where palm trees were & are native. Original species from up to 80 million years ago!
Palm trees grow many places where you'd think. Tropical & sub-tropical climates, to areas outside of the tropics. But that doesn't mean they're native to all of those areas.
How can we know where a palm tree originated?
THINK ABOUT TEMPERATURE
It's the true dividing point.
How sensitive a palm is to low temperatures made a difference for where palm trees originally came from. Figured by the lowest temperatures in an area during typical years.
It's because of the palms' structures:
All those details kept their palm tree native beginnings in mainly tropical & subtropical areas.
A few hardy palm species are limited exceptions. They developed in warmer parts of temperate climates.
Think of the lowest temps reached during the coldest times of the year. If they're regularly & consistently above 32oF/0oC, some species learned to survive where palm trees are now native. As long as the lower range was temporary.
Yes, don't forget elevation! That can change tropical-like areas to temperate, or even near-alpine. With increased altitude. In many areas, the higher you go, the cooler the temps.
So where are palm trees indigenous, growing naturally? Where are palms native or endemic to? In which parts of the world?
It helps to see a little more about how it all began.
Palm trees left fossil examples. Archeological scientists are confident palms are some of the oldest plants around. Studying fossil evidence, they figured out where native palm trees are originally from.
During the beginnings of the Eocene Epoch, tropical-like humid climates were abundant throughout the earth. That's where palm trees became native. Developing, in so many places.
Some are no longer native to these areas. Even no longer existing.
WHEN PALM TREES GREW IN ALASKA!
For example, the Eocene Epoch is when palm trees grew in Alaska.
Toward the Eocene's end, ice ages put the earth in a deep-freeze!
More changes in climate over time affected where palm trees natively developed & grew. Eliminating palms from Alaska, and similar climates.
With all of that, then, which areas of our planet did more recent era palm trees originally come from? Let's see...
The Nīkau palm is the only palm tree that originally sprung up in New Zealand. Its species name is Rhopalostylis sapida. Nīkau is a Maori word describing palm tree leaves.
Most of the country is temperate with warm summers, according to the Köppen climate types. Temperatures in winter months, through most areas don't get below freezing.
Mountainous areas get snowfall. High peaks have snow all or most of the year. You won't see the native New Zealand palm there.
Some say New Zealand has a subtropical climate in upper areas of North Island. You'll know that's not accurate, going by climate science.
How was the Nīkau palm able to natively develop in New Zealand? In lower elevations, their average temperatures are consistently above freezing.
The Mediterranean Fan Palm's species name is Chamaerops humilis. People also call it the European Fan Palm or Mediterranean Dwarf Palm.
WHAT IT PREFERS
When the thermometer dips into freezing temps, it can take it. For a little while. It can't take too much drought, though.
It gets rockin'! Liking poor-type rubbly soil. Preferably in hilly areas.
Imagine being the above pic's photographer! Try to get in all the clumping plants. It spreads like that by growing offshoots. Some plants have multiple trunks.
WHERE IT'S NATIVE
Originating in milder European & northwestern Africa areas. It arose along Mediterranean coasts of Spain, Italy, Portugal, France and on islands. And developed in the Atlas Mountains of Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia.
This huge continent has many climates. All supporting places where palm trees are native. From hot sand dunes to steamy forest jungles & warm plains.
SOME NATIVE AFRICAN PALMS
These palms are indigenous to various areas of Africa.
26 species are endemic somewhere in Africa. Many have huge palm fronds. Some famed are:
Another huge continent. Many historically originated in approximately the southern half. Where it's long been suited for palm tree growth.
NOTABLE ASIAN PALMS
Known for the fruits, most species are variably edible. Some only for animal feed! Asian Date Palm species:
Unique animal & plant species in these large country. We've traveled Australia for months. We love seeing all the palms here.
Nearly the entire place is suitable for growing some type of palm. We wondered while there, if any we saw were indigenous. Went to the Darwin Botanical Garden trying to figure that out. A gorgeous place. Highly recommend it!
NATIVE AUSSIE PALMS
We found a bunch endemic to various Australian climes, particularly tropics & subtropics.
This genus loves warm coastal areas. Numerous species are native to all states/territories except Tasmania. Most are tropical types, but some are "deserty."
THE ENVIRONMENTS LOVED
Dry Sorts - Even though they'd smile with added water, they do well in the dry.
Swampy Palms - Could be in hills or lowlands. But likes mushy grounds.
Rain Foresty - Loving the rain, especially many Queensland & NT rainforest areas.
By the Riverside - These species like it near flowing waters.
MORE PALM TREES NATIVE TO AUSTRALIA
KENTIA PALM - AKA Sentry Palm. Howea forsteriana, named for politician & land squatter, William Forster.
PICCABEAN PALM - Also called Bangalow Palm. Archontophoenix cunninghamiana grows natively, but infrequently, on Australia's central east coast.
ALEXANDER PALM - Known also as Solitaire Palm. Ptychosperma elegans is native to eastern Queensland coastal rainforests. It loves rainy weather & warmth.
Much of South America has endemic palm trees. Some of interest:
Allagoptera arenaria, clustering palm native to Brazil. Per its name it does like the shore. Originating on coastal dunes, it's adapted to salty ground & air spray.
COSTA RICAN BAMBOO PALM:
The Chamaedorea costaricana, as you thought, originated in Central American. In Costa Rica. It's shrubby, with no main trunk.
Chamaedorea tepejilote. Origins from Central America extending south to Columbia. Its multiple trunks look similar to bamboo stalks.
CARNAUBA WAX PALM:
Copernicia prunifera has waxy fronds, used commercially. Native to Brazil, it's easily adaptable.
Syagrus romanzoffiana, also called Cocos Plumosa. Endemic from southern Brazil south to Argentina, it's pretty resilient. Reaching about 40 feetup. Puts out tons of yellow/orange fruit.
AKA Pindo Palm. Butia capitata's indigenous roots are around central inland areas of Argentina, Uruguay, & southern Brazil.
Native to Central America, this Chamaedorea elegans is also called Neanthe Bella.
CHILEAN WINE PALM:
Jubaea chilensis, native to Chile. The palm had fearful chills at one time. Was used for sugar & alcohol (hence its wine name).
USA NATIVE PALM TREES
In the United States, southernmost and southeastern states have native palms. That's North & South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, California, Arizona & New Mexico
All have at least one indigenous species. See some:
The only state with true tropical areas, has multiple types.
Hawaiian native palms are there, for sure. Did you figure that?
COUNTRY OF MEXICO
Diverse native palm trees grow in climates from deserts to rain forests.
Some species are Gaussia maya (Maya Palm) & Brahea edulis (Guadalupe Palm).
MORE PALM TREES NATIVE TO MEXICO
Throughout the Caribbean Islands palm trees are also endemic. Palm tree species native in the Caribbean are:
During the Ice Age the South Pacific & Indian Ocean Island areas experienced maximum temperatures of 32oF (0oC) to -76oF (-60oC). After the ice ages these areas warmed enough to develop indigenous palms. Here are some: