Distribution of Arecaceae:
The family is commonly known as “Palm family”. It includes 217 genera and 2500 species. The members are confined to tropics in both the hemispheres and extending in the warmer regions of the world. In India it is represented by 225 species belonging to 25 genera.
Economic Importance of Arecaceae:
- Food: Pith of Metroxylon rumphii and M. leave (Sago palm) yield sago of commerce. The sap of Borassus yields a sugar, which on fermentation gives alcoholic drink “Taddy”. Fruits of Phoenix dactylifera are very delicious and eaten throughout the Arab world. The nuts of Areca catechu serve as a asteringent and used with betel leaves. The milk of Cocos nucifera makes a refreshing drink; endosperm is eaten raw and stored when dry.
- Medicinal: Tender leaves of Calamus travancoricus are given in bilousness, worms and dyspepsia.
- Fibres: Mesocarps of the drupes of Coconut are extensively used for stuffing pillows and sofa sets. The cane of commerce is obtained from Calamus tenuis and C. rotang and are used for making mats, baskets and other furniture.
Borassus flabellifer – yields palmyra fibres which are used to prepare brushes and brooms. The leaves are used in the manufacture of hand fans, umbrellas, baskets and mats.
- Wax and oil: Wax is obtained from the leaves of Copernicia cerifera and Ceroxylon andicola. The wax is used in making gramophone records, candles and models. Coconut oil is obtained from the Cocos nucifera and is used as hair oil, in soap industry and also for cooking.
- Ornamentals: Roystonea regia (Royal palm), Corypha elata (Talipot palm).
According to Eames (1961) “The palms give evidence of great age; they are primitive taxon that has become greatly diversified and advanced in many characters, each character giving evidence of long specialization.”
Affinities of Arecaceae:
Rendle placed the family together with the Araceae under Spadiciflorae due to unisexual flowers and occurrence of spadix. Hutchinson (1959) traces the origin of Palms from Liliflorean stock directly from Liliaceae through Dracaena-Cordyline. Erdtman also reports similar pollen structure of Palms and Dracaena. Palmaceae is closely related to Liliaceae in palm-like habit of Yucca, Dracaena of Liliaceae, perianth segments, stamens in two whorls, tricarpellary, syncarpous ovary, and structure of pollen grains (Dracaena).