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What do you know about palms?

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AMONG all the plants “created and blessed by God, palm is given and recognised as a special gifts to all mankind”, says, a physiotherapist Uzondu.

Meanwhile, experts have it that plants are living organisms belonging to the vegetal kingdom that can live on land or in water. They also revealed that there are over 300,000 species of plants of which more than 250,000 produce flowers. Unlike animals that need to eat already processed food, the plants are able to produce their own food through a chemical process called photosynthesis. Others detailed it that plants have had and still have a key role in the history of life on earth. They are responsible for the presence of oxygen, a gas needed for most organisms that currently inhabit the plant planet and need it to breathe. Plants continued to  evolve, adding oxygen to the atmosphere. They were able to develop seeds. Life on earth depends on plants.

According to Lucy Okoye, a botanist,:” we see huge variety of plants all around us. They all have the same parts and the same functions. They appear unique with different types of stem, leaves ,flowers, seeds, etc. Its classification is mainly based on several factors and can further be declassified based on their heights ,tenderness of stem, branches and life cycle. They also fall into different categories. Some plants are short just like the herbs, following shrubs and trees with very thick and hard stems called trunck. Palm trees are not exempted from this category.

However, archeological finds have shown that the  palm was commonly used in Mesopotamian society for food and other purposes. Romans gave palm branches as symbol of triumph to the triumphant champions of games and wars.

Okoye went on to say that palms are one of the best known and most widely planted tree families. They have held an important role for humans throughout much of history. Many common products and foods come from palms. They are often used in packs and gardens that are in areas that do not have heavy frosts. In fact, palm branch is a symbol of victory, triumph, peace ,and eternal life originating in the ancient near east and Mediterranean world”.

She elaborated more on the importance of the plant saying, ” despite the fact  that the palm branches are associated particularly with palm Sunday as Christian tradition has it; it was used at the triumphal entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem, adopted into Christian iconography to represent the victory of Martyrs, peace, and fertility. It is also worthy to note that palms remain a popular symbol for the tropics and vacations.

For those of us who live in northern parts, palm trees evoke the easy life, relaxation, warm beaches and tropical sunshine. But those who live further south, surrounded by palm trees, see them with a more pragmatic eye, in terms of the employment and necessities of life that they can provide. In fact, palm trees are among the most beneficial plants in tropical countries, because of their wide geographical distribution and many uses”.

Mind you, she continued “we also have coconut palm. It is a multiple use tree and considered as one of the ten most useful trees in the world. It plays an important role in the economy and food and nutritional security of the people of the Maldives.

Mature kernel is eaten as food and shredded kernel is used in curries, sweets and desserts.

Cream extracted from the kernel is also used in curries and sweets and flavouring of a variety of local dishes including fish curries.

Oil extracted from dried kernel (copra),which is rich in glycerine, is widely used in cooking and used to make soaps, shampoos, shaving creams, toothpaste, lotions, hydraulic fluid, etc.

More so , a sweet juice extracted from a clump of unopened flowers is easily boiled down to syrup, called coconut molasses, which is crystallized into a light brown or dark- coloured sugar. Left standing, it ferments quickly into a beer called ‘toddy’. After few weeks, it becomes vinegar. Husk of the but contains fiber which is combed out and sold as coir, a material for making rope and coconut matting.

Again, fibre is resistant to sea water and is used as cables and rigging in ships, for making mats, rugs, bags, brooms ,and brushes, as well as olive oil filter in some European countries”, Okoye stated.

The botanist highlighted that ,”in the Maldives’, trunk wood is used for house construction and outer wood, which is hard, heavy, strong and close-grained, is used for boat building. Mature fronds are commonly woven into thatching material walls of temporary buildings and screens.

Shell, which is hard and fine grained is carved into all kinds of objects including souvenirs, drinking cups, scoops ,smoking pipe bowl, among others. Charcoal from the shell is used for cooking fires, airfilters, in gas masks, submarines, and cigarette tips

Regarding the uses in traditional medicine, young leaves of palm are used in the Maldives in the preparation of rughaglubeys used to treat muscle sprains and bone rature. It is an excellent source of firewood; various part of the tree such as leaf stalk, husk of the nut ,leaflets, rachis to mention but a few, are used as firewood. It is one of the ideal species for coastal bioshield and can play an important role in it as a commercially important tree.

Note; from ages, the said plant has continued playing vital role of which churches still keep in action as to palm Sunday. The date of the first observance is uncertain. A detailed description of a palm processional celebration was recorded as early as the fourth century in Jerusalem. The ceremony was not introduced into the west until much later in the nineth century according to some clergy “,she pointed out.

 

 

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