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The palm family (Palmae or Arecaceae: both are allowed) is the only family in the order Arecales. About 4000 species of the palm family are known. There are finds of palms of 40 million years old. Although there are winter hardy (for the Netherlands and Belgium) palm species, most species occur naturally in tropics or subtropics. Palms usually have a sham stem. The plants develop a single stem with a growth point. The stem consists of stacked leaf feet and does not contain a bark. Because of this the plant can not grow in width, like real trees. Before a young palm can grow in height, a certain width must be achieved. Approximately 5,000 years ago, a palm species was grown for the first time. This happened with the date palm in the Middle East. Edible fruits include the awarra, date, coconut, moriche, palm peach and salak. Palm oil is used for food preparation, soap and as fuel. Palms also supply materials for household items, for example rattan for a mat knocker and coconut fiber for a coconut mat. Less known are products such as sugar from the sugar palm, soap from the coconut and palm hearts. The indigenous people often have many more applications.
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