Here's a mosaic of some sugar palm photos from my Cambodia collection. The sugar palm is the favorite tree of many Cambodians, and an indelible feature of rural landscapes. For me, these trees add to the sense of a place. Most sugar palms probably have owners, individual or families who tend to them. For owners, particular trees and groves are symbols of familial continuity: grown by an ancestor, inherited from parents, or reserved for the next generation. Owners also have economic investments in their trees: from the sap can be made wine, sugar or juice, all of which can be consumed at home, sold for cash, or shared around socially. And the trunk of a mature tree makes sturdy timber, such as for building traditional boats. I doubt that people who are looking ahead to their children's inheritance are likely to cut down the trees for timber, except perhaps under exigent circumstances.
The photos in the collage show the palms in the background of ricefields, jutting up from the treeline of protected mounds, shading paths and roads, or as boundary and fence markers. I hoped to take photos of people collecting the sap and processing sugar, but didn't have much success. This photo, showing a man scaling the trunk to collect sap for making wine, is the best of the lot. For some reason (people blamed weather conditions that year for the trees not producing the right kind of sap), they didn't make any sugar while I was around. But I sure encountered people resting from work in the fields, drinking palm wine in the shade. Sometimes non-alcoholic juice was also shared around, and this I enjoyed.