Phoenix dactylifera

Common name

date palm, edible date

Description

Stems: Clustering with age (unless suckering shoots are pruned), erect to 25 m tall and 45 cm in diameter, bulging with above ground roots at the base; leaf scars are spiraling, prominent raised knobs. In younger palms, the stem is covered with narrow, triangular leaf bases of fallen or pruned leaves. Leaves: Pinnate, induplicate, to 6 m long, with a stiff rachis which ends in a single leaflet; many narrow, stiff, gray-green leaflets covered with a whitish bloom, arranged in several planes; the lowermost leaflets (along the short petiole) are modified into sharp, thin spines; and no crown shaft is formed from leaf sheaths. Flowers and fruit: Inflorescences are orange-colored, 1-2 m long, and branched to one order. Creamy white staminate and pistillate flowers are produced on different plants. Fruits are up to 3-4 cm long, ovoid and yellow, red or orange-red when ripe.

Diagnostic features

Field: In younger palms, the stem is covered with narrow, triangular leaf bases of fallen or pruned leaves. With age, multiple stems are formed (unless suckering shoots are pruned); leaf scars spiraling, prominent raised knobs. Pinnate, induplicate leaves with spines formed from basal leaflets. Leaflets inserted in several planes.

May be confused with

Other Phoenix species, but the stem and leaflet arrangement are distinctive.

Distribution

Native to dry areas of Northern Africa and the Middle East

Additional comments

Because Phoenix species can hybridize easily and produce fertile crosses, determining the species within this genus might not be possible. Phoenix dactylifera has recently been used an ornamental landscape palm, in addition to its importance as a fruit crop.

Scientific name

Phoenix dactylifera L.

Family

Arecaceae/Palmae

Synonyms

Palma dactylifera (L.) Mill.

Last Updated May 2014

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