Creation Time Day 21
Today I’ve chosen another photograph from the amazing Table Mountain area of South Africa which I took during a visit in 2005. This is a group of palm trees in the Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden, Cape Town; on the lower slopes of the mountain. The particular species of palm tree depicted here appears to be the Kosi Palm, Raphia australis, also known as the Giant Palm because it is believed to have the largest leaves of any of the more than 2,500 palm species in the world. This species originates in a small area of South Africa , Kosi Bay, in the KwaZulu-Natal region. Today its natural habitat is protected as part of a UN World Heritage site.
Trees and plants of the Palm family in general are more widely-known for their popular edible seeds and fruits, such as dates, coconuts, or bananas. Despite the great variety and diversity of species palms generally have a simple structure by comparison with other trees ; effectively their leaves are their branches.
Palms have a long history of usefulness to human society as a source of both food and also materials for building and daily life. In the cultures and religious traditions developed in the Middle East palms are strongly associated with the divine blessings of security, prosperity and peace in life. They were symbols of the gift of good governance, for example being used in the celebrations of triumphant Roman emperors. In the Christian tradition palms are linked with the Kingship of Christ; rooted in the gospel account of Christ’s triumphal yet humble entry into Jerusalem in the week of his crucifixion.
The most widely used palm product in modern society is palm oil. It is found in many mass-produced consumer food and general products and also used to make biofuel. Notwithstanding its significant economic contribution to producer countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia, palm oil has become highly controversial because of the impact of extensive plantations on the environment; especially in rainforest areas.
Whilst conservation campaigners work to prevent unregulated and unsustainable palm oil production, and encourage consumer boycotts of errant companies, it seems the palm leaf may now become a symbol of the need to struggle for better governance of our use of the earth’s resources and to aspire for peace between humanity and rest of creation.