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Date palm

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Date palm
Date Palms.jpg
Scientific Classification
  • P. canariensis (Canary Island date palm)
  • Phoenix dactylifera (date palm)
  • Phoenix loureirii (Loureir's date palm)
  • Phoenix reclinata (Senegal date palm)
  • Phoenix roebelenii (Pygmy date palm)
  • Phoenix sylvestris (Wild date palm)
Distribution Map of the Date Palm.png
Distribution Map

Date Palm is the common name for the species of date-producing palm trees. They are assigned to the taxonomic genus, Phoenix, the name of which comes from the name Phoenician because they were some of the first cultivators of dates. [1] The date palm is used all over the world for many things. The main product to come from the date palm is obviously the date, an oblong fruit that the tree produces. The trees can also serve practical uses such as being used to make brooms, rope, and medicine. [2] [3] Some Islamic cultures believe that God nourished Adam in the Garden of Eden with dates, and that the palms were used for building material when Mohammed's home was built. [4] It is important to Christians because they waved the large leaves of the date palm when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, therefore being one of the rather few plants to work its way into Biblical history.


Premature Dates.

Date Palms are a rather medium sized tree, ranging in height from fifteen to twenty-five meters tall. [5] Some of them have been known to be as tall as 120 feet. [6] The tree grows at a steady pace of about a foot a year. [7] They are often clumped together in such a way that several trunks come out of one root system [8], and they thrive in desert conditions as long as there is moisture, which is why they are usually found in an oasis. [9] The skin on the trunk of the palm is made up of upward-pointing, overlapping, persistent, woody leaf bases. Many suckers will rise from these bases after about six to sixteen years. Eventually, the petiole will form from these suckers, and the leaf follows shortly after. [10] The leaves are pinnate, and measure about three to five meters in length [11], which is about ten to twenty feet [12], and the entire crown of the tree is about six to ten meters in diameter. [13] The palms produce flowers for their reproduction process, where the dates will eventually be formed. [14] [15] [16]

Other than the fruit, the plant's structure itself has still given it great importance for the things that they possess. The flower clusters are sometimes used as brooms after the dates have been picked off. [17] [18] The seeds of dates can also be ground as if they are a coffee bean in order to make a sort of coffee. The actual dates themselves are sometimes used to make syrup in other countries, along with the sap. The date palm has also been known to be used for medicinal purposes because of the cleansing quality that it has. [19] [20] While they may be used for medicinal purposes, they are also rather susceptible to certain diseases. The main disease that it is susceptible to is Bayoud disease, which is caused by a fungus that kills off the older Date Palms. [21] [22]


Date Palms have differently sexed trees, which means that they are dioecious. [23] [24] Growers tend to use one male tree to fertilize about fifty female trees. [25] Sometimes, it can be used to fertilize as many as 100 female trees. [26] The females are the trees that actually produce the fruit. The male trees attract bees, but the females do not attract bees. Males also have pollen filled sack structures that the females do not possess. [27] The flowers on the palm are unisexual, and are small, white, and usually bend down due to the weight of the berries once they have formed. The flower clusters themselves are about 120 cm long. [28] [29] Dates are naturally wind pollinated, but they can be pollinated manually for commercial purposes. [30] [31]

When date palms are grown from seed, only about 50% of them will be female, which are the actual fruit-bearing plants. If the plants are grown from the seedlings, they tend to be small and poor in taste. That is why most date cultivators use cuttings off of regular date palms to grow their dates that they will use commercially. The dates that grow off of these plants are sweet, juicy, and take about two to three years to grow. For regular date palms, it takes four to seven years for them to bear fruit, and the seeds inside of them only become viable after seven to ten years of growth. [32]

There are very many different varieties of dates that are cultivated for commercial use. Some of these varieties include:

  • Barhi: A species of date that was introduced to California in 1913 from Iraq.
  • Dayri: A variety of date that was also introduced to California in 1913 from Iraq.
  • Deglet Noor: It is a leading variety in countries like Algeria and Tunisia. It was introduced to California in 1900, and is now 75% of the crop of dates there.
  • Halawy: Another species of date that was introduced to California from Iraq.
  • Hayany: The most popular species of date in Egypt, though it is not exported. It was introduced to California in 1901.
  • Khadrawy: An important date species in Iraq and Saudi Arabia, and only grown to a certain extent in Arizona and California.
  • Khastawi: A leading soft date in Iraq. It is also grown in California.
  • Maktoom: Another date species that was introduced to California from Iraq, this time in 1902.
  • Medjool: A formerly exported date from Morocco that was introduced to California from the Bou Denib oases in French Morocco in 1927. It is now a deluxe date in the Californian market.
  • Saidy: A highly prized date in Libya.
  • Sayer: The most widely grown date species of the Old World that was greatly exported to Europe and the Orient.
  • Thoory: A popular date in Algeria that does well in California.
  • Zahdi: The oldest date that was grown and consumed at an awesome rate in the Middle East. It was introduced to California in about 1900.
  • Amir Hajj: It was introduced to California from the Mandali Oasis in Iraq in 1929.
  • Iteema: Some offshoots of this species were introduced to California in 1900, where it is grown, but not in large amount.
  • Migraf: A popular date species in Southern Yemen.
  • Manakbir: A type of date that ripens earlier, and the palm produces few offshoots and its multiplication is limited. [33]


A grove of date palms in Morocco.

Date palms are believed to have originated somewhere in the Persian Gulf in about 4,000 B.C. between the Nile and the Euphrates. [34] [35] [36] That is about the same location as ancient Israel. There is also proof that dates date back as much as 6000 B.C. from archaeological evidence discovered in 2006. [37] Further research has shown that the dates were cultivated by the ancient Sumerians around 5000 B.C. The date palm provided them with food, shade from the hot sun, building materials, food for the livestock, tools, and rope. [38] Date palms are often used to symbolize peace, justice, and supply. They have been pictured on early sculptures that were created by the ancient Sumerians. The sculptures themselves were considered sacred by the Sumerians. Dates palms were also considered sacred in the cultures of the Babylonians and the Assyrians. The Egyptians also honored the date palms, considering them holy and symbols of peace. The date itself later became important to the three main religious groups of the Middle East: the Jews, the Christians, and the Muslims. [39]

Later on, the Arabs spread date cultivation around South Africa, Southeast Asia, Northern Africa, Spain, and Italy.[40] [41] It is believed that the actual person who might have first brought back dates to Italy was none other than Marco Polo. It is also believed that the Moors brought dates with them back to Spain as well. [42] In 1765, the Spanish explorers introduced the date to Mexico and California. [43] [44] The fruit became very popular and were starting to be exported from California in 1837. The trees that had grown all of the dates that they were exporting were planted by Franciscan and Jesuit missionaries in 1769. Presently, there are about a quarter of a million date palms in California and Arizona that are being used to farm dates. [45] In 1869, Bonavia brought twenty-six different kinds of seeds from the Near East into Northern India and Pakistan. In 1980, Saudi Arabia's production of dates was up in the measurements of half million tons from only about eleven million trees. [46] Even though the date palm has been spread all across the world, it is still valued in its original homeland. Dates are still an important and traditional crop in Iraq, Arabia, and North Africa west of Morocco. [47] In Islamic countries, dates are served along with yogurt or milk as the first meal after the sun has set during Ramadan, which is a religious observance in the Islamic culture. [48] [49]


Date Palms are mainly known for what they were named for: the date. Dates are a highly cultivated fruit worldwide. [50] During a successful harvest season, mature date palms produce about as much as 80–120 kilograms, or 176–264 lbs, of dates. The largest producer of dates in the world is Iraq. It produces 87% of the entire world's exported dates, even though there has been a decrease in the amount of dates being produced, probably due to the war. There are three types of dates that are the main ones to be cultivated: soft dates, semi-dry dates, and dry dates. Each type of fruit is determined by its content of glucose, fructose and sucrose. [51] Dates are probably the oldest fruit in the whole world. It was not uncommon for dates to be served at Passover in biblical times. [52] They can reach lengths of fifty centimeters, and they contain one, simple wooden seed. [53] [54] The seeds are about 2-2.5 cm long, and 6-8 mm thick. [55] The date has often been mistaken for not being a fruit, which it is. It is a type of fruit known as an epigynous berry, like the blueberry or the cranberry. When a berry is epigynous, it means that the "fruit" forms above the flower. [56]

Dates are large, oblong berries that are dark orange when ripe. [57] When they are unripe, their color ranges from bright red to bright yellow. [58] There are four stages of ripening in dates. The names of each stage are in Arabic. The first stage is kimri, which means unripe. The second stage is khalal, which means full size and crunchy. The third stage is rutab, which means soft and ripe. The fourth and final stage is tamr, which means ripe and sun-dried. Dates are an excellent source of vitamin C. [59]

People can eat dates in many different ways. Dry and soft dates are usually eaten directly by hand, as one might eat any other berry. [60] [61] Some people stuff their dates with almonds, walnuts, candied orange and lemon peel, tahini, marzipan or cream cheese. Dates that have been pitted are referred to as stoned dates. In the Middle East, dates are used to make intricate delicacies and desserts such as tagines, a kind of pudding that is common in Morocco, as well as ka'ak, which is an Arabian type of cookie. They have even been used to make a beverage known as sparkling date juice, a non-alcoholic version of champagne, typically served at special occasions. Along that same line, dates and peppers are added to native Nigerian beer in order to make it "less intoxicating." Many people in the Middle East feed their livestock dried dates as animal feed. [62]



  • Date Palm Natrural Resources Conservation Service. United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) PLANTS Database. Accessed 5/12/09.
  • The Date Palm The Food Museum. Primary Reference: The Date Palm, by Hilda Simon, Dodd Mead, 1987. Accessed 5/13/09.
  • Date: Phoenix dactylifera Morton, J. 1987. Date. p. 5–11. In: Fruits of warm climates. Julia F. Morton, Miami, FL. 4/2/99. Accessed 5/13/09.
  • The Date Palm Wikipedia, part of the Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. Accessed 5/12/09
  • Date Palm, Phoenix species George & Audrey DeLange. Arizona Wild Flowers. 4/6/03. Accessed 5/13/09.