Phoenix dactylifera

Family: Arecaceae

Common Names: Date palm

Habitat: 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.

Description: 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.

Culture: Middle East has 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.

Propagation: By seed. Suckers can be separated (with effort) to start new plants.

Usage: Dates, due to their high sugar content, represent the basic, fundamental food for North Africa, Arabia and Persia's peoples, where hundreds of varieties are grown for commercial purposes.



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