I have very mixed feelings about palm trees.

These are giant, fantastic vestiges of the Cretaceous, when they and ferns covered much of a much warmer world. When the first plants diversified to flower, palms were among them. With the appearance of fruit, now plants offered food which is of much higher caloric content than foliage, allowing the rise of mammals: animals that have so much energy they can store it as fat and can burn calories (~60% of daily intake) to thermoregulate. The palms saw the dinosaurs. They saw the first birds. They competed and thrived to present day.

My knee jerk reaction to palms, however, is to view them as tacky landscaping products you see in places like Miami or along Santa Monica Blvd. A big landscaping pet peeve of mine is trees that are arranged in straight rows, equally spaced and groomed identically. When I see palm trees I should think of a massive Sauropod dinosaur, up to its armpits in a marsh, methodically chewing vegetation and being leery of packs of carnivores. Instead I think of fake boobs and boardwalk roller skates and Jeff Spicoli.

I have much less of that reaction when I see a lone palm. It’s much more pleasing to me as a garden accent. In the picture above, that white building makes the scene look like Hemingway’s Cuba. Then, of course, I’m just reminded of all the wacky tropical countries with their wacky militaristic governments that we bomb the snot out of when they’re between their own Coup d’├ętats and assassinations, CIA or otherwise.
We won’t even go into the vision of the palms opening scenes of ‘Apocalypse Now’.

The family Arecacaea: Viva la revolution and viva Las Vegas.

I wish I had no associations for it at all. But they make me over-think.

Originally published Feb2009