Trees reaching to a height of 40-50 feet or even more (Phoenix, Areca catecheu), short sized garden palm i.e. Livestonia and occassionally traling in habit (Calamus). Thrinax is only a foot in height.
Adeventitious root system.
Woody, erect, sometimes scandent as in Calamus and occassionally underground as in Nipa, cylindrical having persistent woody leaf bases or ring like scars, generally unbranched, rarely branched as in Hyphaene. The stem is very tall and its girth is also prominent but secondary growth does not take place by the expansion of apical meristem which gives rise to innumberable vascular bundles and ground tissue made up of parenchyma.
Alternate and generally crowded in terminal region, petiolate, petiole sheathing, exstipulate, compound, pinnately (Phoenix) or palmately (Borassus), leaf base woody, many leaves have waxy coating over them while the apex of the leaf or leaflet is pointed.
Spadix having sessile or pedicellate flowers enclosed within a huge bract called the spathe which may sometimes be hard. The flowers may be single or in panicles. Plants of this family may be monocarpic (fruiting only once during life time e.g. Corpha) or polycarpic as most of the plants. The spadix is interfoliar and very much branched in Nannorrhops.
Sessile or shortly pedicellate, bracteate, generally unisexual (Phoenix) or hermaphrodite, actinomorphic, hypogynous, complete or incomplete and trimerous. Plants may be monoecious (Cocos) or dioecious (Phoenix).
Tepals 6 in two whorbs of 3 each, polyphyllous or slightly connate, imbricate aestivation, fleshy, coriaceous and persistent.
Stamens 6 (in hermaphrodite and male flowers) in two whorls of 3 each, polyandrous, staminodes may be present in the female flowers, sometimes the number of stamens may be reduced to 3 as in Nipa.
Absent or only rudimentary as in male flowers but when present in hermaphrodite and female flowers it is tricarpellary, syncarpous, ovary superior, trilocular, axile placentation, one ovule in each locule.
A drupe (Cocos) or a berry (Phoenix, Areca).
Pollination: By wind. Economic Importance
(1) Phoenix: Date palm, important species are P. sylvestris, P. dactylifera, P. acaulis, P. humilis. Berry fruits are eaten.
(2) Calamus: C. tenuis is important for making mats & baskets. This species and C. rotang yield cane of commerce and its furniture is light and durable.
(3) Nannorrhops retchieana used by Pathans for making mats & fans. Its seeds are made into rosaries and are common in Makka & Madina.
(4) Areca catechu: The Betlenut palm has one seeded berry cultivated in South for its commercial value. It is of medicinal importance also.
(5) Borassus: It is an ornamental tall tree having a crown of leaves at the top which are fan shaped. The leaves are used in thatching, making mats, baskets, fans. The inflorescence is incised and toddy is taken from it.
(6) Caryota urens: The toddy palm is tapped and a pitcher is tied near the incision so that the liquid is collected in it. On fermentation, the liquid yield alcohol and the fresh toddy is also taken and supposed to be a good stimulant and to some extent an intoxicant.
(7) Capernicia cerifera: It yields a sort of wax which was formerly used for making candles and gramophone records.
(8) Cocos nucifera: It is largely cultivated near sea shores and elsewhere for its high economic value. The coconut palm is a fibrous drupe and the edible portion is the endosperm. The oil is extracted from it which is commercially very valuable. Its hard endocarp is made into toys and pipes (“Hyqyua”) by villagers.
(9) Metroxylon rumphii is a monocarpic genus which yields the sago (“Sabudana”) of commerce.
(10) Nipa fruitcans is found in S. India and Ceylon and its delicate round leaves are used as cigarette paper.