Have you ever wondered where palm trees come from? Almost everyone is familiar with the iconic look of palm trees, and we know that they come from hot places, but where exactly do they naturally grow?
Palms are found across vast swathes of the world. Because there are many different varieties, it’s impossible to pinpoint a single location that they all come from, but they all evolved in hot countries. Although some palms will tolerate being grown in a cold environment, they are generally tropical trees and are commonly found in Australia, India, Japan, Asia, America, and the South Pacific.
Where Do Palm Trees Come From?
There are over 2500 kinds of palm trees, so it probably won’t surprise you to learn that there is no single place that palm trees have come from. Different kinds have different places of origin.
However, all palms do come from hot countries, and they tend to grow in coastal areas, often around beaches. In general, tropical and subtropical climates are more common places of origin for palm trees.
They are mostly found in between latitude 30° N and 30° S, although this is certainly not a fixed range, and palms can be found well outside of this, particularly if human intervention has carried them there.
Few palms are indigenous to the United States, but many have been transported there by humans, and they will grow very happily there. Many, such as the coconut palm, will thrive in the southern parts of North America, and they are considered very useful trees for both food and manufacturing purposes.
Of all the many palm trees that exist, just thirteen are native to the United States. These include:
- Cabbage Palmetto
- Miami Palm
- Mexican Palm
- Needle Palm
- Californian Fan Palm
- Dwarf Palmetto
- Texas Palmetto
- Florida Silver Palm
- Florida Thatch Palm
- Florida Royal Palm
- Buccaneer Palm (also known as the Florida Cherry Palm)
- Scrub Palm
- Paurotis Palm (also known as the Everglades Palm)
There are also palms that are native to the Hawaiian Islands and the Caribbean Islands Territories, but these are the only ones that are native to the mainland US.
Many people think that trees like the coconut palm are native to Florida because they grow so abundantly there, but actually, the coconut palm is thought to have come from India. It may have traveled with settlers who were journeying from Cuba to Spain.
If you’re wondering where else palm trees generally live, more than two thirds are found in tropical forests around the world. They are also able to survive in oases, scrublands, grassland, and tropical mountains. As long as temperatures don’t get too low, they will grow almost anywhere.
Some palms are much more resistant to the cold than others, so some species will grow in a wider range of climates. Others are cold sensitive and can only be found in the warmer regions of the world.
What Climate Do Palm Trees Prefer?
Palm trees like to grow in warm environments on the whole. They are usually found on beaches and near the coast, despite the fact that they are vulnerable to storms and bad weather.
You might find palm trees in India and other hot countries, but you will never find native palm trees in cold parts of the world. However, they can sometimes be grown in cold places, especially if you choose a hardy variety of palm.
Many of these trees can also cope with high levels of salt, which is why they are often found around coasts and on beaches, in spite of the salty water.
Palm trees don’t only like hot places. They tend to be more prevalent in areas that are wetter and have less fertile soil. Usually, shallow groundwater is favored by palms, as they have a very shallow root system. Fertile ground and dry conditions do not tend to be as conducive to palm growth.
Palm trees are also less likely to grow in areas where the other trees are very tall. This means that they are less common in Africa and some parts of Asia. They are unable to compete and get enough light, and will not grow well there.
Palm trees that can survive well in cold weather include:
- Chilean Wine Palm
- Mexican Blue Palm
- Dwarf Fan Palm
- Jelly Palm
- Needle Palm
- Canary Island Date Palm
- Chusan Palm
- Washington Palm
- Caranday Palm
Many of these will grow in cool and non-ideal conditions, even if they originated from a hot country. However, if the weather becomes truly cold, they may suffer or even die.
Where Do Date Palms Grow?
Date palms are well known and popular palm trees, so where do they come from?
They may have originated in the country now known as Iraq, and they were spread around the world in the eighteenth century by settlers and merchants.
This tree now grows in California, Pakistan, the Middle East, the Canary Islands, India, Mexico, and northern Africa.
Where Do Coconut Palms Grow?
Coconut palms are probably the best known palm trees, but these are so widespread now that nobody knows exactly where they originated from. It is thought that they may have come from the Western Pacific and the Indian Ocean islands.
This tree now grows in almost any humid, warm environment, and while people are responsible for the distribution of many of these trees, they also spread themselves very effectively. Coconuts float well, and when the fruits drop into the sea, they can wash up many miles away.
If they wash up somewhere cold, they may fail to germinate or may not survive their first year, but as long as they wash up somewhere tropical, they will usually survive.
Where Do Royal Palms Grow?
Royal palms are thought to be native to both Cuba and south Florida. They will grow in Hardiness Zones down to 10A and can reach about seventy feet tall. These palm trees can tolerate some salt spray, but do not deal with coastal areas as well as some other palm trees do.
Where Do Mexican Fan Palms Grow?
Unsurprisingly, the Mexican Fan Palm is native to northern Mexico – hence the name. However, you can grow it in Florida and other zones, down to US Hardiness Zone 9A. It does need good drainage around its roots and does not like to sit in water. It tends to be considered a desert palm, but cannot go for extended periods without a drink.
These trees can be hybridized with the Californian Fan Palm, which struggles to grow in Florida, to create a tree that will cope with Florida’s climate. They are also more vulnerable to storm damage than many other kinds of palms, and often get snapped during Florida’s wild weather.
Where Do Areca Palms Grow?
A very popular houseplant, the Areca Palm originally comes from the Madagascan tropics.
It is known for being great at purifying the air and because it is one of the smaller palms, many people grow it in their homes – so you can have one of these almost anywhere in the world, provided you keep your home warm enough and give it enough light to help it grow.
Areca palms are also reasonably easy to propagate, as clumps at the edges of the stem will sometimes come away naturally. If you want one of these palms, try finding a friend who has one and see if they can get a cutting for you.
Areca palms are particularly beautiful, lush green additions to any home, so they are a great option if you want to grow palm trees somewhere that is not quite suitable and lacks some of the conditions they need to be healthy.
Which Zones In The US Will Palm Trees Grow In?
Many palms will happily grow in Hardiness Zones 12A – 13B, even the more sensitive specimens. The hardier palms that are able to cope with wider temperature ranges may manage in Hardiness Zones 8A – 11A.
That means that you might find palms as far north as Southern California sometimes, and even in North and South Carolina.
States that palm trees – especially native species – seem to thrive in particularly well include Hawaii, California, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, Florida and Arizona. These states are warm enough for them, but not so dry that they cannot get enough water to survive.
Palm trees come from all over the tropical world, and different species are native to different places. Not many palm trees are native to the United States, but some are, and many will grow well in the warmer states.
Over the years, palm trees have been spread across the warm parts of the globe, and they continue to dominate picturesque beach scenes. Most people think of palm trees before they think of anything else when it comes to states like Florida and California, and it’s certainly true that they are abundant in such places, even if they aren’t native to them.