The Arecaceae are a botanical family of perennial lianas, shrubs, and trees commonly known as palm trees. (Owing to historical usage, the family is alternatively called Palmae.) They are flowering plants, a family in the monocot order Arecales. Currently 181 genera with around 2600 species are known, most of them restricted to tropical, subtropical, and warm temperate climates. Most palms are distinguished by their large, compound, evergreen leaves arranged at the top of an unbranched stem. However, palms exhibit an enormous diversity in physical characteristics and inhabit nearly every type of habitat within their range, from rainforests to deserts.
Palms are among the best known and most extensively cultivated plant families. They have been important to humans throughout much of history. Many common products and foods are derived from palms, and palms are also widely used in landscaping, making them one of the most economically important plants. In many historical cultures, palms were symbols for such ideas as victory, peace, and fertility. For inhabitants of cooler climates today, palms symbolize the tropics and vacations.
The palm branch was a symbol of triumph and victory in pre-Christian times. The Romans rewarded champions of the games and celebrated military successes with palm branches. Early Christians used the palm branch to symbolize the victory of the faithful over enemies of the soul, as in the Palm Sunday festival celebrating the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. In Judaism, the palm represents peace and plenty, and is one of the Four Species of Sukkot; the palm may also symbolize the Tree of Life in Kabbalah.
Panaiveriyamman was an ancient Tamil tree deity related to fertility. Named after panai, the Tamil name for the Palmyra palm, she was also known as Taalavaasini, a name that further related her to all types of palms.
Today, the palm, especially the coconut palm, remains a symbol of the tropical island paradise. Palms appear on the flags and seals of several places where they are native, including those of Haiti, Guam, Saudi Arabia, Florida, and South Carolina.
Source: Aracaceae from Wikipedia
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