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PALM CANYON DRIVE

Palm Canyon, circa 1915

About Palms - Continued

Palms were an important economic plant.  Palm fruits were gathered from late summer until early autumn.  During this period each tree grows as many as a dozen fruit clusters weighing from five to twenty pounds each.  The fruit pits are small and coated with a thin layer of dark blue, sweet flesh.  Fruits were eaten fresh or dried for storage in ollas (ceramic vessels) for later use.  Dried fruits were ground into flour and mixed with other types of flour and water to create a porridge.  A customary method of obtaining fruit clusters growing at great heights was to detach the fruit cluster stem with a long willow pole.  Seeds were also used as the rattling agent for gourd rattles.  

Palms were utilized in other manners as well.  Palm fronds were an important construction material for dwellings and ramadas.  Cooking implements were crafted from palm frond stems.  Palm leaves were useful for flailing and hulling dried seeds, construction of loosely-woven baskets, and for making wakutem (sandals or foot pads).  Desert Cahuilla women occasionally used palm in their coiled baskets.  All products of the palm were an important trade commodity.

Palm oases represent ecological niches that offered many advantages in the desert, particularly due to the presence of water, game, edible plants, and an attractive climate.  Plants found in association with palm oases include sycamore, elder, willow, cottonwood, mesquite, screwbean, arrowweed, yucca, agave, and various cacti.

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