Ajuntament de Barcelona

Phoenix dactylifera

Joan Brossa Garden

    Catalan name: 
    Palmera datilera
    Spanish name: 
    English name: 
    Date palm
    Species characteristics
    Northern Africa and Persian Gulf
    Sandy soils with a humid subsoil

    Palm tree 15-20 m tall with a very thin and occasionally curved stipe (non branched trunk finishing into a bunch of leaves), 30-50 cm in diameter. Usually, there is a single stipe, which can be ramified from the base and which is covered by the old leaves' remains. The crown is not very leafy, 6-10 m in girth. The leaves són palmes pinnate, 3-5 m long, although they can reach 7 m, with hard prickles up to 20 cm long on the petiole bottom part. Tehy are composed of up to 150 greyish-green leaflets, 30-45 cm long and 2 cm wide, at the same time.

    The flowers, cream the masculine ones and yellow the feminine ones, appear into very ramified inflorescences that sprout among the leaves's base. The fruits are ovoid drupes, 2.5-9 cm long. Their colour varies from reddish orangishto reddish chestnut-brown when ripe. Tehir pulp is fleshy and sweet.

    Flowering time: 
    Fruiting time: 
    Uses and properties: 

    Fruits of the Date Tree are eaten fresh, dry, as a juice or in sodas and alcoholic drinks. Among Christians, leaves are traditionally used to make palms for Easter Sunday.

    They are also used to make hats, courtains, rope, baskets, etc.

    Almost all parts of the plant are used one way or another.

    The bone of the fruit has many properties depending on how it is processed. If softened and then grinded, are used to feed the cattle. Oil to make soap can be obtained if pressed. Chemical process is also used to produce charcoal used as fuel.

    The flowers are also edible and used in many dishes.

    History and curiosities: 

    The scientific name, Phoenix dactylifera, consists of the genus name Phoenix, coming from the Greek φοῖνιξ or φοίνικος, word that Theophrastus used for the date palm, and the Latin term dactylifera, “one that makes dates”.

    Date palm cultivation started in the Western Arabia circa 6000 BD and spread to Africa and the Iberian Peninsula. To Chaldeans and Egyptians, the date palm was the life tree and they used it as a fuel, to make fabrics with the palms and as food. Also the Iberians considered it an important tree and used its leaves for rituals, as it is stated by some pottery pieces found in several sites. In Middle Eastern and North African cultures the date palm is a highly appreciated (it appears at the Saudi Arabia’s coat of arms); besides because the date production, an important cultivation in many of the countries in the area and an extremely important food (because its presence in the traditional gastronomy and in some Koranic passages and because its use, together with milk, in some places as a Ramadan fast breaker at sunset), the date palm is appreciated in Northern Africa as a support element for the irrigation farming because its leaves have a high capacity to retain the humidity.

    The palm grove of Elche (the largest one in Europe, with up to 240,000 trees), where the dates are obtained, was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000.

    For further information: 

    LÓPEZ GONZÁLEZ, Ginés A. Los árboles y arbustos de la Península Ibérica e Islas Baleares. (2 vol.) Madrid: Mundi-Prensa, 2001

    CAÑIZO, José Antonio del. Palmeras. Madrid: Mundi-Prensa, 2002