Published Online: 15 JUL 2011
Copyright © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. All rights reserved.
How to Cite
Dransfield, J. 2011. Arecales (Palms). eLS. .
- Published Online: 15 JUL 2011
Arecales is the order of monocotyledonous angiosperms that includes the single family, Arecaceae, the palms. The family is divisible into five subfamilies, each with very distinctive morphology. Palms are economically very important, providing a huge range of products from food, clothing, construction and basketry material to medicine. They are usually instantly recognisable as palms, having distinctive morphology; in particular, the fan (palmate) or feather (pinnate) leaves are almost unique in development. The fossil record of palms extends from the middle of the late Cretaceous to the present day. Palms are largely confined to the tropics and subtropics, with a very few outliers in temperate regions. Across the tropics the distribution of subfamilies, tribes, subtribes and genera is uneven, reflecting a complex history of evolution and dispersal.
The palms are an iconic group of plants that epitomise the tropical world (Figure 1).
Palms boast the largest leaf, the longest unbranched stem and the largest and heaviest seed.
Palms are of immense economic significance.