What Are the Balls on My Palm Tree?

All trees go through a reproductive cycle leading to seed pods, fruit or nuts. The balls on the tops of palm trees are the consequence of a palm tree’s healthy reproductive cycle, or even its fruits. The vast majority of these fruits are edible, with coconuts and dates among the most commonly known. Depending on the size and kind of fruit, it is ideal to steer clear of palms during ripening or risk being knocked on the head by a stray fruit.

Reproductive Cycle

You’ll find more than 2,500 species of the evergreens called palms (Palmae). Large palms grow easily in U.S. Department of Agriculture zones 8 through 10. Palm flowers are usually very little and their green color makes them mix easily to the leaves of the tree, making them difficult to distinguish. Insects and end are responsible for moving pollen from the male flowers to female blossoms, which may or may not develop on the same tree. When the flowers have been pollinated, they start to develop the fruit which will eventually develop into the balls in the tops of their tree.

Dates and Coconuts

Dates and coconuts are used frequently in cooking and for snacking all around the globe, although both trees are best suited to U.S. Department of Agriculture hardiness zones 9 to 11. The coconut palm (Cocos nucifera) creates a dry drupe shaped like an oval, typically green to brown. The fruit has outer layers which can be cut off to show what we realize as a grape, the brown hard shell featuring white meat inside. The date palm (Phoenix dactylifera) creates massive clusters of round-to-oval fruits known for their sweet flavor. Each fruit contains one stone in the middle. A single date palm can create as much as 250 pounds of fruit a year.

Other Edible Fruits

You will find other palm trees with clusters of fruits which could be pleasant to eat. The guadalupe palm (Brahea edulis) grows in USDA zones 9 and 10 and creates dark 1-inch fruits that are sweet and taste similar to dates.The chilean wine palm (Jubaea chilensis), found in the same zones, creates yellow bunches of 2-inch fruit. Within the fruit is a nut called a cokernut or pygmy coconut, which looks and tastes like grape. In USDA zones 8 through 10, jelly palms (Butia capitata) and California fan palms (Washingtonia filifera) create small pleasant fruits. Jelly palms have 1-inch yellow-orange ovals, which are similar in flavor to apricots or a pineapple-banana mix. Fan palms have very little, berry-like fruits which are brown-black and like dates, but with a butterscotch flavor.

Fruits to steer clear of

Even though the vast majority of palm fruits are edible, if not palatable, you will find a handful which should be avoided. Palms in the genera Caryotas, fishtail palms, have flesh that is inedible and can really sting if it comes into contact with skin. The internal nut is technically edible, but it requires a careful cleaning off to remove every bit of the stinging flesh. The betel nut palm (Areca catechu) is not only mildly poisonous but may also be addictive. In some countries the nuts are chewed for their mildly stimulative effect, similar to nicotine. However, like many nicotine goods, the nuts can cause great damage to teeth and gums and raise the potential for oral cancer.

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