A word of advice from the palm tree

If a thick-trunked tree and a tall, slender palm are struck by a violent storm, which will survive? Although palms may look delicate, they are actually stronger than your average tree. Palm trees have evolved to withstand winds up to 145 miles per hour, even hurricanes that uproot other trees and destroy buildings leave palm trees unscathed. There is much to learn from the way Palms handle stressful situations. Their strength comes from a combination of the composition of their stem, their root system, and the shape of their fronds. 

palm trees bend

Bend, Don't Break

The palm´s stem has adapted to survive the harshest storms and protect the core or heart of the palm (read Where is the heart of the Palm Tree. Palms do not have secondary xylem tissues as most trees do. This is what gives the stem of many palms the capacity to bend over and not snap like a branch of a tree would. The Sabal Palmetto, one of our best-selling palm trees at Atlanta Palms, has one of the greatest degrees of flexibility. The Sabal Palmetto is able to bend up to 50 degrees without snapping! Apart from being extremely wind tolerant, it is disease and pest-resistant, and cold-hardy.

The stem flexibility is only possible because of its strong primary xylem tissues. These tissues are responsible for transporting nutrients from the base to the crown and the fronds. The rigid tissues serve as an outer layer of protection. The strength in the stem also comes from the hardened cells left over from the bases of the fronds that are shed as the palm grows. All of these physical adaptations of the palm´s stem create a core that is strong enough to prevent snapping, but flexible enough to bend with the wind.

Have an Extended Support System

The palm´s root system keeps the palm upright in the harshest conditions. Unlike trees that have one main taproot, the palm has a fibrous root system, meaning the roots are thin and extend outward like a carpet that reaches no more than three feet deep. The vast quantity of these lighter roots gives the palm a wider support base. If some of the roots are damaged or pulled, there are many more to hold it down. 

Let It Pass

The palm’s fronds help it adapt to strong winds and storms. The fronds act like feathers that shed water, reducing the downward force of the rain. The space between each of the thin leaflets also allows for wind to pass through. The bases of the fronds are flexible and allow for a large degree of bending. The shape of the different types of fronds has all evolved with one goal: to lower the force of both wind and water in order to protect themselves from breaking. When torrential rains start to fall, the shape of the fronds allows the wind and rain to pass through leaving minimal damage.

What can a palm tree teach us?

The palms' physical characteristics allow them to dance with the storm rather than succumb to it. As humans, we can learn from the way palms endure a storm. When in a moment of stress or crisis, follow the rules of a palm: bend, don´t break, have an extended support system, and let it pass. This will allow us to evolve like the palm and withstand the hardships that come our way by dancing with the storm rather than toppling over.

beautiful palm tree