Common Names: date palm
Family: Arecacea/Palmae (palm Family)
Palm Drought Tolerant Edible Plant Has Unusual or Interesting
Although there are many palms that we call "date palms"; pygmy date
palm(Phoenix roebelenii), Senegal date palm (Phoenix reclinata),
Canary Island date palm (Phoenix canariensis) are just a few.
However the "true" date palm from which the tasty fruit is obtained
is Phoenix dactylifera which is a multi-stemmed palm from which the
suckers are usually removed to create single stemmed specimens.
Trimmed in this manner the date palm will grow to heights of 100 ft
(45.7 m). The broad gray trunk is patterned with diamond-shaped leaf
scars and is up to 16 inches in diameter. The large greenish or
bluish gray pinnate leaves are typically 18-20 ft (5.5-6.1 m) long
by 2 ft (0.6 m) wide. They are arranged in a thick canopy up to 40
feet wide. Leaflets are 1-2 ft (0.3-0.6 m) long and arranged in
V-shape ranks that run the length of the leafstem. Leaflets near the
base are modified into sharp 3-4 in (7.6-10.2 cm) spines.
The yellow orange to red fruit, called 'dates', are oblong and
about 1.5 in (3.8 cm) in length. They consist of a large pointed
seed surrounded by sweet sugary flesh. Dates are formed from flowers
on 4 ft (1.2 m) inflorescences that emerge from among the leaves in
spring. Male and female flowers grow on separate plants. Only female
plants produce dates and only if a male tree is nearby. Dates are
not formed in climates that are too cool. When grown in humid
tropical climates like Florida, the fruit tends to be of low quality
often dropping from the tree before ripening.
The date palm is native to North Africa - exactly where is
indeterminable. The date palm was one of the first plants to be
cultivated by humans. The people of North Africa and the Middle East
have depended on dates as a food source for thousands of years.
During this long interval, man has constantly selected those trees
that produced the finest fruit. Today there are many distinct
varieties grown commercially in Iraq, Israel, and North Africa.
Commercial date groves are also found in the U.S. mainly in southern
California and Arizona. Also a popular ornamental, the date palm
graces landscapes from Florida to Texas, in the warm dry climates of
the southwest from Arizona and California to Nevada and anywhere
freezing temperatures are non-existent or of brief duration. The
various Phoenix palm species hybridize with one another easily so
individuals may show a mix of species characteristics.
Not particular about soil and will even grow in poor soils. Prune
suckers annually to create single trunk specimens.
Light: Bright sun.
Moisture: Although a drought resistant desert plant, the date palm
has deep roots that typically seek out subterranean water sources.
Provide regular irrigation for best look and faster growth.
Hardiness: USDA Zones 9 - 11. Zone 8 palm enthusiast grow them in
sheltered location but occasional freeze damage to foliage can be
Propagation: By seed. Suckers can be separated (with effort) to
start new plants.
Full grown date palms are often transplanted to create instant
landscapes - this planting didn't exist a month earlier!
This is a spectacular palm for landscaping large areas. In recent
years many commercial date farms in the western U.S. have closed due
to a number of economic pressures. As a result large specimens are
available at very competitive prices, even when shipped to Florida.
As I write this, a half dozen date palms were installed at the
entrance to a new local office complex which I think makes the
otherwise undistinguished corporate architecture handsome and
interesting. Date palms are also frequently seen guarding the
entrances to upscale housing developments and standing at attention
Oft mentioned in the bible, rendered on Egyptian tomb walls, and
used extensively to spiff up Las Vegas hotels, this is a plant with
a long and fascinating role in humankind's history. And oh yeah,
dates taste great too - a delicious Christmas time treat is dates
stuffed with cream cheese and raw almonds - yum!
In Florida young date palms are very susceptible to leaf spot and
other fungus - treat with fungicide. Note too, that this palm is
also susceptible to lethal yellowing disease and should not be
planted where other palms are suffering from this always fatal