Sunday, June 26, 2011

Palms [Arecaceae]

Egypt is a desert. It defines the edge of the Sahara. Without the River Nile, Egypt would be barren. However, where the Nile flows, or where the a spring bubbles to the surface, some beautiful plants grow. The most majestic of these are palms.

There are many different kinds of palms. Palms are evergreen, mostly tropical plants. Palms are "morphologically diverse," which means they have many different shapes. Palms can inhabit many habitats, from rain forests to deserts

 There are date palms (Phoenix dactylifera). The date palm is not only beautiful, it provides food and shade. During Ramadan, which is coming up, most Muslims break fast with a date, and some milk. Coconut palms (Cocos nucifera) provide oil, milk and food (which I know from Mombasa), King palms (Archontophoenix alexandrae) (from my El Paso days). I love the Doum palm (Hyphaene thebaica), which I affectionately call the Dr. Seuss tree. I have seen the Doum palm in Samburu.  I think I mentioned in a previous post, that there are fake metal palms in Rehab, where I live, which a reader tells me are actually cell phone towers. Apparently, there are more than 2500 palm species world wide. I think we take palms for granted. They are very important to our ecosystem in the desert.

According to El Masry El Youm some palms are endangered. "Egyptian environmentalists and botanists are calling for the preservation of the millennia-old argun palm, a species of palm tree present in Egypt since the time of the Pharaohs. This rare desert oasis palm, whose population does not exceed 30 wild individuals in Egypt and a few hundred in Sudan, is on the verge of extinction. Located in remote, arid and very sparsely-populated oases in southern Egypt and northern Sudan, these ancient palm trees are exposed to two kinds of threats: human overuse and climate change. Haitham Ibrahim, a conservation researcher for the Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency (EEAA), explains that both factors cause stress to the argun palm community."

According to the sacred places website, "in Egypt, the evergreen date palm was a sacred tree, and a palm branch was the symbol of the god Heh, the personification of eternity. For later cultures, the palm branch also served as an emblem of fecundity and victory. For Christians, the palm branch is a symbol of Christ's victory over death. It also signified immortality and divine blessings and is often seen as an attribute of Christian martyrs. It also denotes particular Christian saints such Paul the Hermit and Christopher, as well as the Archangel Michael. The palm tree is also a symbol of the garden of paradise."

During my recent travels in Egypt, I saw images of the palms engraved in Pharaonic temples.
I think these are coconut palms. Look closely.

These photos are from the temple of Queen Hatsheput.
I love the beautiful stylized fronds

For now, in the midst of your busy work day, enjoy some more beautiful palm pictures. This photo was taken boat-side, on the Nile, from the deck of my boat, the Nile Festival.

 The top two photos were taken from a felucca, near the temple of Philae. 
This last photo was taken during a sandstorm, during the late winter, in El Rehab. These palms look so fragile.Compare their spare foliage to the lush foliage of the palms by the Nile. If you look very closely, in the background of this picture, you can see a tank . . . .

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