This palm stands tall

GREEN COVER The palms are great for avenues and parks.   | Photo Credit: PHOTO: V.V. KRISHNAN

The royal palm needs minimal care and is great for gardens

Royal palm ( Oreodexa regia) is one of the stateliest of all palms, reaching up to a height of 30 metres. It is 50 cm in diameter. It belongs to the family Aracaeae. `Oreodexa' is a Greek word that means `mountain glory' and `regia', in Latin, stands for `royal'. It is a native of Cuba and Panama and planted in parks and gardens because it is decorative. The trunk gets distinctly thick towards the upper middle part. The bark is smooth, light grey with ring like markings. The leaves are two to four metres long, divided feather-wise. The petiole forms a shaft, fully embracing the upper portion of the stem below the crown for a length of 50 cm. Flowers appear in three to four clusters just below the leaf sheath. Flowers are tiny, white, cup-shaped and borne in summer. When young, the flowers are enclosed by boat-shaped sheaths. Male flowers are longer than female but as soon as they open, they disclose their ivory inflorescence, hidden until then. The fruit is a small egg-shaped drupe about one to two cm.Royal palm has been frequently cultivated in various parts of India. It grows well even near the sea, but cannot stand salt water. Grow them in moderately fertile, moist but well drained soil in direct sunlight. Propagation is by seeds. Water moderately. The long leafy sheath below the crown of leaves readily distinguishes this palm from others. The slightly bulging stem is also a characteristic. The tender top is cooked and eaten as a vegetable and the leaves flattened and used as sleeping mats. Royal Palm is ideal for lawns or in avenues as they add to the green cover.CHITRA RADHAKRISHNAN