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Palm


Palm any of the tall unbranched trees, of the family Palmaceae surmounted by a crown of large pinnate or palmately cleft leaves. Palms have representatives among the largest trees (Creoxylon), and largest wood climbers (Calamus); have the largest leaves (Raphia), largest inflorescence (Corypha) and the largest seeds (Lodoicea), in the plant kingdom. There are about 230 genera and about 2,700 species distributed mostly in tropical and sub-tropical regions. In Bangladesh at least 20 species of palms grow naturally. At least 5 exotic species are planted as avenue or as garden plants. The most economically important palm of the Sundarbans is water coconut (Nipa fruticans) which yields leaf-thatching material in the coastal districts; also a good bee forage plant; seed is used as masticatory. Another palm of the Sundarbans is Hantal (Phoenix pelludosa).

The great economic palm in Bangladesh is coconut (Cocos nucifera), the most common tree palm of southern and central districts. Betel nut palm is also a common and popular plant cultivated in the homesteads. The mature seed is mostly used as constituent mastication with betel leaf. The nut is considered as 'small farmers' cash crop. The palm-sugar industry in an age old practice in Bangladesh. The juice of wild palm (Phoenix sylvestris) and palmyara palm (Borassus flabellifer) constitute favourite commercial sugar. The annual production of palm sugar is about 30,000 m tons.

Wild date palm is also popular for tapped sap obtained from upper stem just below the crown of leaves during night of winter season. The sugary sap of palmyara palm is tapped from the young inflorescence during day and night in the beginning of summer. The sweet watery sap of both of the palm species is used as popular drink. In raw sap the sugar content is about 10-20%. The daytime sap is used as alcoholic drink and vinegar. The fruits of both date palm and palmyara palm are minor but popular.

The indigenous today-palm and the exotic bottle palm, and talipot palms are the common avenue and garden plants in Bangladesh. The fish-tail palm, (Caryota urens) is a common wild palm in the eastern hilly regions of Bangladesh and is cultivated as avenue tree. Palm oil has been tried to commercialize in the eastern hilly region of Bangladesh with no success. Rattans constitute a very popular group of palm plants in Bangladesh, consisting of eight species. These have great demand in making furniture, box, basket, and building materials. Young shoots of Daemonorops jenkinsiana and D. tenuies are used as vegetable. [Mostafa Kamal Pasha]

See also palm oil; rattan.