Last Updated on September 17, 2021 by Grow with Bovees
While palm trees have the name “tree” and grow like trees, they are not necessarily trees and are scientifically classified as grass in the Arecaceae family.
This article discusses everything about palm tree wood and answers some interesting questions regarding palm wood.
Do Palm Trees Have Wood?
Before explaining some reasons why palm tree trunks are not considered woody, it is important to understand that palm tree trunks are made up of fibrous material that does not exhibit the strength of wood.
They can neither be categorized as hardwood nor softwood as their cellular structure is similar to that of grass, and their trunks are made of fibrous strands. Palm trees are monocots like corn, grass, and rice.
Woody stems have bark on the outermost surface layer, a cambium tissue and sapwood underneath the bark, and a secondary reinforcement referred to as xylem.
On the other hand, the inside of the palm tree is similar to the outside. It’s only made up of fibrous strands running along the trunk, and palm trees also lack barks, which are characteristic of woody trees.
What Does Palm Tree Wood Look Like?
The palm tree trunk consists of a fibrous grain with a particular golden color and black speck. Cut across the trunk reveals fibrous grain that appears as bundled fibrous straw.
This is contrary to the characteristic ring-like appearance of the normal wood grain.
Palm stems are light in density and soft, and the tissue is flexible compared to woody trees.
Palm wood cannot be used in producing timber due to its cellular composition. However, the wood is a significant component in manufacturing building materials as it exhibits longevity and resilience.
Can Palm Tree Wood Burn as Firewood
Wood cut from palm trees is commonly used as firewood in many places. However, the palm tree burns faster compared to normal wood, producing little heat.
Palm tree trunks have a high water retention capacity, and you need to first dry them thoroughly before using it as firewood.
In some tropical regions where palm trees are the only trees available, people depend on their wood for making fires. Palm trees also grow fast, and a single tree will provide plentiful firewood for use after thoroughly drying it.
Besides producing little heat and burning fast compared to other types of wood, their trunks also produce a lot of ash when burned, making the cleaning process more laborious.
Palm trees need to be removed from plantations after a period of roughly 70 or 80 years, when they stop producing fruit. That makes them a readily available source of firewood in those locations.
Is Palm Tree Wood Useful as a Building Material?
Palm tree wood is an important resource in building and construction. Here are some of the ways in which it’s used as a building material.
For most indigenous people, the wood provides a solution to all their timber needs. It’s readily available locally and works well as material for roofing, and building house walls and rafters.
The wood fibers are first pulled out then woven together to form a strong durable thatch for roofing.
Also, some palm tree varieties have extra-flexible stems that make the palm tree appear as climbing rather than growing. A good example is the Rattan palm tree, and it produces the wood used for making rattan wicker furniture that is a type of woven furniture.
In coastal areas and beaches, wood fibers are also used in weaving hammocks. The roots of palm trees have no commercial value, and they don’t even burn well as firewood.
Palm Tree Wood Uses
- Oil Production
Palm oil can be extracted from palm trees and used in soft drinks to add taste and aroma and preserving food for small-scale industries.
Palm oil is also useful in household cleaning products such as soap as it helps improve the fragrance and softness of soap and lengthen the shelf life.
- Indigenous Construction
Palm trees are a great resource for indigenous construction of things such as signposts, utility poles, public buildings, walkways, and bridges.
Indigenous communities can also use palm trees in making weapons such as arrows and bows.
- Decking and flooring
Many people now appreciate the use of palm trees as an eco-friendly solution and alternative to using hardwoods for decking and flooring.
Compared to hardwood decking and flooring, decks and floors made from coconut timber provide a natural wood texture that adds to the beauty of your home or office. The wood from coconut palms is more textured than hardwood and also provides more friction to prevent slipping accidents.
Palm trees also produce sapwood that provides natural protection against insects, unlike the normal hardwood decks that require expensive maintenance. This makes their wood an excellent choice for decking or parquet flooring.
Other building uses include making furniture such as tables, chairs, cabinets, etc. Furniture made from this wood is popular in the West Indies.
- Fence construction
As a building material, palm tree wood is commonly used in building fences. It is resistant to termites, strong winds, weather damage, and insects.
The wood makes good fence posts because they are naturally straight and have flexible natural growth rings resistant to breaking.
It is also great for making fence rails because the wood has a low friction coefficient, meaning that it’s not prone to breaking like other trees such as cedar, cypress, and pine trees. It’s lightweight yet strong.
Black Palm Vs Red Palm Wood
Black palm is a more durable type of wood whose fibers are densely packed together with less dense material that is light in color.
The ends of the grain appear as black bundles that are bound together in a similar fashion to steel cables. Black palms can take a fine polish and are used in making walking sticks, picture frames, boxes, handles, and more.
The red palm wood is difficult to work on, but it’s generally used in making bottle stoppers, pens, and more.
Red palm is less dense than black palm, but the structure is similar between the two.
Like in dark palm wood, the denser fibers pack together and are surrounded by lighter and less dense fibers.
Is it Worth The Effort to Harvest Lumber from Palm Trees?
Absolutely! Palm tree wood is a light, flexible type of wood that’s easy to work with. It has an excellent strength-to-weight ratio, and it provides the perfect flexibility for construction projects like furniture or roofing materials.
How to Dry Palm Wood
The best way to dry palm tree wood is by storing it in a warm and dry spot and covering it. You can cover the wood with something that will absorb the moisture, such as cotton or hessian cloth.
The rate of drying is dependent on the sun and the temperatures. It could take weeks or days before your palm tree wood dries.
How Strong is Palm Wood?
Palm tree wood is more malleable and flexible than it is strong. Palmwood can bend 40-50 degrees without breaking.
Is Palm Tree Wood Sustainable?
Palm trees are beautiful, sustainable, and long-lasting. Palmwood is a reliable and eco-friendly alternative to hardwood used in construction. Wood sap on the tree is also a natural repellent against insect damage and doesn’t require any expensive maintenance or chemical treatments to prevent insect damage.
How Do You Preserve Palmwood?
Exposed wood should be pressure treated with the right preservatives. The most common preservative that you can use to pressure-treat your palm wood is copper-chrome-arsenate, which efficiently preserves against termites.