Date Palm - Phoenix dactilifera L.
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Edible Palms

Mature specimen of Phoenix dactylifera growing in Morocco with fruit clusters (infructescences) hanging below the leaves
Fig. 1
Mature specimen of P. dactylifera growing in Morocco with fruit clusters (infructescences) hanging below the leaves

Phoenix dactylifera field of young individuals in cultivation
Fig. 2
P. dactylifera field of young individuals in cultivation

Specimen of Phoenix dactylifera growing in Abu Dhabi with infructescence bagged to collect the ripening dates
Fig. 3
Specimen of P. dactylifera growing in Adu Dhabi with the infrutescence bagged to collect the ripening dates

Phoenix dactylifera closer view of leaflet and waxy bloom
Fig. 4
View of leaflet and waxy bloom

Phoenix dactylifera leaf rachis and spines
Fig. 5
Phoenix dactylifera leaf rachis and spines

Phoenix dactylifera leaf bases and fibers
Fig. 6
P. dactylifera leaf bases and fibers

Inflorescense
Fig. 7
Inflorescense

Inflorescense
Fig. 8

Unripe Fruit
Fig. 9
Immature ruit

Photo of dates on f date pal in Las Vegas
Fig.10
Photo of dates on a date palm in Las Vegas, Nevada

Dates (Phoenix dactylifera)
Fig. 11
Dates (P. dactylifera)

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Edible Palms

Scientific name
Phoenix dactilifera L.
Common names
French: dattier; German:dattel; Italian: datteri or dattero; Spanish: datil; Dutch: dadel; Portuguese: tamara 3
Synonyms
Palma dactylifera (L.) Mill.; P. atlantica var. maroccana A.Chev.; P. chevalieri D.Rivera, S. Ríos & Obón; P. dactylifera var. adunca D.H. Christ ex Becc.; P. dactylifera var. costata Becc.; P. dactylifera var. cylindrocarpa Mart.; P. dactylifera var. gonocarpa Mart.; P. dactylifera var. oocarpa Mart.; P. dactylifera var. oxysperma Mart.; P. dactylifera var. sphaerocarpa Mart.; P. dactylifera var. sphaerosperma Mart.; P. dactylifera var. sylvestris Mart.; P. iberica D. Rivera, S.Ríos & Obón 10 
Relatives
P. dactylifera L.; P. atlantica A. Chev.; P. canariensis chabeaud.; P. reclinata Jacq.; P. sylvestris Roxb.; P. humilis Royle.; P. hanceana Naudin.; P. robelinic O'Brein.; P. farinifera Roxb.; P. rupicola T. Anders.; P. acaulis Roxb.; P. paludosa Roxb.
Family
Arecaceae, palm family
Origin
Mesopotamia (Iraq)
USDA hardiness zones
9 - 11
Uses
Edible fruit; landscape specimen; many uses in other countries, see 3
Height
Up to 80 feet (24m)
Crown
Crown is wide but not very dense
Plant habit
Strong upright trunk; vertical, cylindrical and columnar of the same girth all the way up 10
Growth rate
Very slow grower; grows at the rate of 1 to 1.5 ft (30-45 cm) a year 3
Longevity
40-50 years
Trunk/bark/branches
Composed of tough, fibrous vascular bundles; sometimes date palms show a branching phenomenon; fertile they can produce as much fruit as a single headed palm 10
Pruning requirement
Many homeowners trim the lower leaves to discourage a fungus that commonly develops in warmer climates
Leaves
Perennial; pinnately compound blue-green to gray-green leaves or fronds can grow to 20 ft (6 m) in length; leaflets are 1-2 ft (0.3 to 0.6m) long and form a "V" shape down the rachis 8
Flower
Orange inflorescences can reach lengths of 4 ft (1.2 m), are heavily branched, bear small white blossoms, and grow among the leaves; 8 date palms are dioecious thus the male must always be nearby, creamy white staminate and pistillate flowers are produced on different plants 4
Fruit
The oblong edible fruits are 1-3 in. (25 to 75mm) long and occur in orange or red masses when mature 8
USDA Nutrient Content  Deglet noor pdf 6 pages
USDA Nutrient Content Medjool pdf 
Light requirement
Full sun
Soil tolerances
Neutral to acidic soils that are well drained
PH preference
It requires neutral to acidic soils
Drought tolerance
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 1
Soil salt tolerance
Moderate degree of salinity is not harmful but excessive salt will stunt growth and lower the quality of the fruit 3
Cold tolerance
15°F (-9°C)
Roots
Being a monocotyledon, date palm has no tap root; its root system is fasciculated and roots are fibrous 10
Invasive potential *
None reported
Pest resistance
Susceptible to lethal yellowing disease, so it is best to avoid planting the date palm where the disease is present
Known hazard
Male trees are extremely allergenic because their pollen is air-borne, whereas the female palms cause minimal to no allergies 7



Reading Material

Date Palm (Phoenix dactylifera) from fruitipedia.com
Phoenix dactylifera: Date Palm from  the University of Florida pdf
Date from Julia Morton's Book: Fruits of Warm Climates
Growing True Date Palms in South Florida by J. Garofalo and J. Vedaee pdf
Phoenix dactylifera L. from Handbook of Energy Crops



Origin

While the native range of this palm is uncertain, it is thought to be indigenous to either North Africa or the Middle East. It is also present in Turkey, Pakistan, and Northwest India, but is thought to have been introduced to these areas long ago through. 8
The botanical name of the date palm, Phoenix dactylifera L., is presumably derived from a Phoenician name "phoenix", which means date palm, and "dactylifera" derived from a Greek word "daktulos" meaning a finger, illustrating the fruit's form (Linné, 1734).
Another source refers this botanical name to the legendary Egyptian bird, "Phoenix", which lived to be 500 years old, and cast itself into a fire from which it rose with renewed growth (Pliny, 1489; Van Zyl, 1983). This resemblance to the date palm, which can also re-grow after fire damage, makes the bird and the date palm share this name, while "dactylifera" originates from the Hebrew word "dachel" which describes the fruit's shape (Popenoe, 1938). 10

Description
While the native range of this palm is uncertain, it is thought to be indigenous to either North Africa or the Middle East. It is also present in Turkey, Pakistan, and Northwest India, but is thought to have been introduced to these areas long ago through human transport. Although date palm prefers dry climates, it occurs along rivers and streams and in areas of the desert that have underground water sources. In America, this tree grows well in regions where there is low humidity, although it is found in humid areas like Florida, and where the temperatures do not fall below 15°F. Date palm is slow growing and requires full sun for optimal growth; it can reach heights up to 80 feet. The petiole (stem that attaches the leaf to the trunk) is considered "false" because it contains 3- to 4-inch thorns that are actually modified leaflets. When young, the trunk bears boots (remnant petioles that were attached to the trunk); when mature, the boots wear and become knobby but still show a characteristic spiraling leaf arrangement.
People in the Middle East have used the date palm as a main food source for at least 1000 years. It is only in the last several hundred years that it became a global commodity. Today, cultivation of date palm has spread into many other parts of the world including the United States. Currently, there are hundreds of varieties of the date palm, with noticeable differences in fruit characteristics. Only two varieties produce fruit in areas with humidity similar to that of the Gulf Coast region of the United States. 2
Besides the date palm, five of the species bear edible fruit: (P. atlantica chev., P. reclinata Jacq., P. farinifera Roxb., P. humilis Royle., and P. acaulis Roxb.). 10

Diagrammatic Construction
More Images

Flowers
Small fragrant flowers (the female whitish, the male waxy and cream colored), are borne on a branched spadix divided into 25 to 150 strands 12 to 30 in (30-75 cm) long on female plants, only 6 to 9 in (15-22.5 cm) long on male plants. One large inflorescence may embrace 6,000 to 10,000 flowers. Some date palms have strands bearing both male and female flowers; others may have perfect flowers. As the fruits develop, the stalk holding the cluster may elongate 6 ft (1.8 m) while it bends over because of the weight. 3

Fruit
The fruit is oblong, 1 to 3 in (2.5-7.5 cm) long, dark-brown, reddish, or yellowish-brown when ripe with thin or thickish skin, thick, sweet flesh (astringent until fully ripe) and a single, cylindrical, slender, very hard stone grooved down one side. 3
Dates go through 4 stages of development: 1) Chimri, or Kimri, stage, the first 17 weeks after pollination: green, hard, bitter, 80% moisture, 50% sugars (glucose and fructose) by dry weight; 2) Khalal stage, the next 6 weeks: become full grown, still hard; color changes to yellow, orange or red, sugars increase, become largely sucrose; 3 ) Rutab stage, the next 4 weeks: half-ripe; soften, turn light brown; some sucrose reverts to reducing sugar which gains prominence; 4) Tamar stage: ripe; the last 2 weeks; in soft dates, the sugar becomes mostly reducing sugar; semi-dry and dry dates will have nearly 50% each of sucrose and reducing sugars. 3

Varieties
Though no cultivars are well adapted to South Florida, it would be best to choose cultivars reported to be more tolerant of humidity and rain. Julia Morton, in her book Fruits of warm climates, recommends the following:
a.) The following cultivars are the most tolerant of humidity and rain: ‘Halaway’, ‘Khadrawy’, and ‘Kaktoom’.
b.) The cultivar ‘Medjool’ is intermediate in its tolerance of humidity and rain.
c.) The following cultivars are not at all tolerant of humidity and rain, therefore are not good candidates for growing well in South Florida: ‘Zahdi’, ‘Deglet Noor’.
It can be noted, unfortunately, that ‘Zahdi’, ‘Deglet Noor,’ and sometimes ‘Medjool’, are the ones most often offered for sale in South Florida. 6

Root system
The lack of roots in the top soil allows other cultures such as wheat, lucerne and vegetables to be inter-cropped. While, the high concentration and deep presence of primary roots allows the date palm to benefit from underground moisture and consequently, unlike most fruit palms, resist water stress and drought conditions. 8

Harvesting
Ordinarily, in palms 5 to 8 years old, the first crop will be 17.5 to 22 lbs (8-10 kg) per palm; at 13 years, 132 to 176 lbs (60-80 kg). Some improved cultivars, at high densities, have yielded over 220 lbs (100 kg) per year. 3

Pollination
Fruit production requires that both female and male trees be present in the same area.

Propagation
Date palms grow readily from seeds if the seeds and seedlings are kept constantly wet. But seedlings are variable and take 6 to 10 years to fruit. Furthermore, 50% of the seedlings may turn out to be males. The best and common means of propagation is by transplanting the suckers, or offshoots when they are 3 to 5 years old and weigh 40 to 75 lbs (18-34 kg).

Date Palm Propagation from the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations

Climatic requirements
Date palm is very exacting in its climatic requirement, which according to an Arab saying should grow with its feet in running water and its head in the fire of the sky.  The successful cultivation of date palm requires a long summer with high day as well as night temperature, a mild winter without frost, and absence of rain at the time of flowering and fruit setting with low relative humidity and plenty of sunshine.  It is estimated that finest date varieties require 3,300 units of heat (base 10ºC) for full maturity of its berries. 7

Planting
Deep, sandy loam soils ideal for maximum water–holding capacity and good drainage are desirable.  Date palm can grow in alkaline and saline soils but in such soils its growth and productivity are greatly reduced.  The soil profile should be free from stones of calcium carbonate concretions and hard pan at least up to 2 m depth.  Date palm tolerate high soil salinity (pH 8-10).  It can survive in soils having 4 % salt concentration, provided the root system does not come in contact with a stratum of soil where the sodicity is more than 1%.7

Pruning
Some minor upkeep may also be required, and many homeowners trim the lower leaves to discourage a fungus that commonly develops in warmer climates. 8
Date palms tend to sucker if left untrimmed and will eventually form a large impenetrable clump.

Fertilizing
Suscesptible to potassium deciciency

Irrigation
Irrigation is very essential in date palm because it is grown in hot and dry, low rainfall areas.  Further, the water requirement of date palm is high although it can withstand prolonged droughts.  Date palm likes wet feet but is damaged under prolonged stagnation. 7

Pests
Unripe fruits are attacked by Coccotrypes daclyliperda which makes them fall prematurely. Ripe fruits are often infested by nitidulids—Carpophilus hemipterus, C. multilatus (C. dimidiatus), Urophorus humeralis, and Heptoncus luteolus, which cause decay. 3

Diseases
Lethal yellowing destroyed about 300,000 coconut palms in Miami (Florida, USA) in less than
five years (McCoy, 1976). Previously, the disease killed more than 15,000 coconut palms in Florida, (USA).
The host list of palm species attacked by lethal yellowing is large and includes Phoenix dactylifera L.; P. canariensis Hort., and P. reclinata Jacq. (Thomas, 1974).
In date palm the fronds become desiccated and grey-brown instead of becoming yellow. A soft rot of the growing point occurs, converting the meristematic area into a putrid, slimy mass. The crown topples from the palm, leaving a naked trunk.
The causal agent is a mycoplasma-like organism. It is believed that the pathogen is disseminated by wind-born arthropod vectors. Removal of diseased palms and their offshoots, quarantine measures, the use of tolerant types of palms and the treatment with antibiotics are the main control measures. 7

Warning
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 pdf 7 pages and should not be planted where other palms are suffering from this always fatal disease. 1

Food Uses
Dry or soft dates are eaten out-of-hand, or may be seeded and stuffed, or chopped and used in a great variety of ways: on cereal, in pudding, bread, cakes, cookies, ice cream, or candy bars. 3
Fruit is of singular importance, as it is a staple part of the diet of millions of people: sap from tapped inflorescence used to make sugar (non destructive). 11

Medicinal Uses **
Each individual tree is either a male or a female (as is true for all species within this genus). Male trees are extremely allergenic because their pollen is air-borne, whereas the female palms cause minimal to no allergies. 2

Other Uses
Date palm makes an attractive landscape specimen with its blue-green leaves, textured trunk, and bright orange inflorescences.

Further Reading
Botanical and Systematic Description of Phoenix dactylifera from FAO Food and Agriculture of the United Nations
Date Palm Botanical Art
Date Palm ext. link



List of Growers and Vendors
Bibliography

1 Sheper, John. "Phoenix dactylifera." floridata.com. Created 22 May 1999. Updated 30 May 1999. Web. 12 Apr. 2014.
2 Friedman, Melissa H., Andreu, Michael G., Quintana, Heather V. and McKenzie, Mary. "Phoenix dactylifera, Date Palm." edis.ifas.ufl.edu. This document is FOR 252, one of a series of the School of Forest Resources and Conservation, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Original publication date May 2010. Reviewed Apr. 2016. Web. 27 Apr. 2017.
3 Morton, J. "Date". hort.purdue.edu. Fruits of warm climates. p. 5–11. 1987. Web. 13 Apr. 2014.
4 Anderson, P. J. "Phoenix dactylifera." idtools.org/id/palms/palmid/. Identifying Commonly Cultivated Palms, a Resource for Pests and Diseases of Cultivated Palms. Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Service, Division of Plant Industry and Identification Technology Program, CPHST, PPQ, APHIS, USDA; Fort Collins, CO.  2011. Web. 15 Jan. 2014.
5 Zaid, A., de Wet, P. F., Djerbi, M. and Oihabi, A. "Diseases and Pests of Date Palm". fao.org. Date Palm Cultivation: Chapter XII. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Rome. 2002. Web. 27 Apr. 2014.
6 Garofalo, Joe and Vedae, Jalil (Jay). "Growing True Date Palms in South Florida". edis.ifas.ufl.edu. Fact sheet no. 61. Miami-Dade County Cooperative Extension Service. 2002. Web. 26 July 2014.
7 Pal, R. N. "Date Palm (Phoenix dactylifera)." fruitipedia.com. Indian Council of Agricultural Research, Krishi Bhawan, New Delhi, India. Web. 21 Nov. 2015.
Friedman, Melissa H., Michael G. Andreu, Heather V. Quintana, and Mary McKenzie. "Phoenix dactylifera, Date Palm." edis.ifas.ufl.edu. This document is FOR 252, one of a series of the School of Forest Resources and Conservation, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Publication date May 2010. Reviewed Apr. 2013.Web. 21 Nov. 2015.
9 Zaid, A. and de Wet, P. F. "Botanical and Systematic Description of the Date Palm. Date Palm Cultivation: Chapter 1." fao.org. Food and Agriculture of the United Nations. Rome. 2002. Web. 12 Apr. 2015.
10 "Phoenix dactylifera L.." theplantlist.org. Web. 23 Nov. 2015.
11 Haynes, Jody and McLaughlin, John. "Edible Palms and Their Uses." edis.ifas.ufl.edu. This document is Fact Sheet MDCE-00-5- of the UF/Miami-Dade County Extension Office. First published Nov. 2000. Web. 14 Dec. 2015.

Photographs

Fig.Multivac42.  Mature specimen of  P. dactylifera growing in Morocco with fruit clusters (infructescences) hanging below the leaves. N.d. edis.ifas.ufl.edu. University of Florida. Under (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0). Web. 23 Nov. 2015.
Fig. 2,4,5,6,9 Anderson, Patti, J. Phoenix dactylifera . Identifying Commonly Cultivated Palms, a Resource for Pests and Diseases of Cultivated Palms. 2011. iidtools.org/id/palms/palmid/. Web. 16 Jan. 2014.
Fig. 3 Sericea. Specimen of Phoenix dactylifera growing in Abu Dhabi with infructescence bagged to collect the ripening dates. 2011. flickr.com. Web. 15 Apr. 2014.
Fig. 7,8 Phoenix dactylifera. N.d. Plant catalog. toptropicals.com. Web. 16 Jan. 2014.
Fig. 10 Shebs, Stan. Photo of dates on a date palm in Las Vegas, Nevada. 2004. wikimedia.org. Web. 23 Nov. 2015.
Fig. 11 Folini, Franco. Dates (Phoenix dactylifera). 2013. flickr.com. Web. 15 Apr. 2014.

UF/IFAS Assessment of Non-native Plants in Florida's Natural Areas
** Information provided is not intended to be used as a guide for treatment of medical conditions.

Published 12 Apr. 2014 LR. Last update to 27 Apr. 2017 LR
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