Family description

Palms, i.e., evergreen trees or lianas without branches, single stemmed or with several stems clustered together, stems usually with conspicuous concentric rings (leaf scars).
Leaves simple or pinnate, sometimes huge in size, with distinct stalks which are often enlarged at base and form a sheath around the stem.
Flowers in branched clusters protected by a large conspicuous bract (spathe) in bud, usually starting amongst or just below the leaves but being left behind when leaf drops. Individual flowers tiny, usually unisexual, without stalks, calyx segments typically in 2 rows of 3, males mostly with 6 stamens (sometimes 3, 9 or more).
Fruits a fleshy or fibrous drupe, usually 1-seeded.

General info

Distribution (Sub-)tropical only, with 203 genera and 2650 species.
Ecology Can be found almost anywhere, but the tree forms (as opposed to the rattans) not very common in Asian tropical forests.
Uses One of the most useful of all plant families, particularly for building materials, oil (palm oil) and food. Many species also grown as ornamentals.

Treated genera

  • Borassus
  • Calamus
  • Caryota
  • Pinanga
  • Livistona


Borassus sp.

Calamus draco

Caryota sp

Pinanga sp

Livistona chinensis