What Do Palm Tree Seeds Look Like?

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Palm trees are very common landscaping features.
Image Credit: Brooke Robson/iStock/GettyImages

From the huge coconut that the coconut palm ( ​Cocos nucifera​, USDA zones 10 to 12) produces to edible dates produced by the date palm (​Phoenix dactylifera​, USDA zones 9 to 11), palm tree seeds show much variation in size and shape and have many different uses. Members of the palm plant family (Arecaceae) are common landscaping features in many states such as California, Florida, Texas, South Carolina, Arizona and Hawaii, and many serve well as potted plants in many interiorscape designs outside their hardiness ranges.

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Notable Characteristics and Description

Palm trees typically have a tall, unbranched trunk that bears very large leaves, or fronds, at its apex. Flowering specimens, which bear fruit containing seeds, occur on spikes that can be simple or branching. Most of the 1,100 species of palms are tropical, but some occur in temperate areas, such as the Mediterranean.

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Because so many species of palms exist, many variations in appearance and use occur in the fruit and the seeds that are contained inside. The date palm and the Senegal date palm (​Phoenix reclinata​, USDA zones 9B to 11) produce edible drupe fruits known as dates. In fact, date palms hold the honor of having the oldest palm tree seed ever found that germinated when planted, according to the University of Florida. Coconuts are called "dry drupes" because of the thick husk surrounding the large single seed, which is what we call the coconut, according to Missouri Botanical Garden. Other species produce fruit that is covered with scales.

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Palm Tree Seeds and Uses

Many species of palms produce seeds that are round and the size of a walnut, with some called palm tree nuts. All palm seeds, regardless of size, have an endosperm, which serves as food for the tiny plant embryo. For example, the date's hard seed is considered the endosperm, while the coconut has a softer endosperm in the form of its white, oily flesh. Palm growers often begin new trees from seeds they collect from mature palms.

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Some types of palm seeds are edible and used in recipes such as the many uses of the coconut palm fruit from its uses in desserts to drinks. The pindo palm or jelly palm's (​Butia capitata​, USDA zones 9 to 11) fruit's sweet pulp is made into jelly, as its common name suggests or fermented and turned into wine, according to Missouri Botanical Garden.

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Other palm seeds that are edible include the Chilean wine palm (Jubaea chilensis, USDA zones 7 to 10), which seeds are cooked or eaten raw and said to have a nutty flavor. The seeds are also candied and made into sweetmeat and produce an edible oil, according to Plants for a Future. The native saw palmetto (​Serenoa repens​, USDA zones 8 to 11) fruits are used as an herbal tonic supposedly treating ailments like enlarged prostate glands and urinary tract problems, according to Plants for a Future. Palomar College notes they were used by early settlers as a soothing tea and the Seminole Indians used them as a source of food. So many people were collecting the seeds from natural areas the state of Florida now requires a "Native Plant Harvesting Permit" to collect them, according to the University of Florida.

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