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DATE PALM TREE / Phoenix Dactylifera

Scientific Name Phoenix dactylifera

Arabic Name Nakhl, Nakheel, Nakhla

Common name Plant, Tree, Palm

Kingdom Plantae

Conservation status

 

The Latin name derives from Phoenix (as the Phoenicians were supposed to have first spread the plants) Dactylifera (from dactylus, ‘date’) and fero (‘I bear’).

The tree grows up to 30m tall with a very slender trunk, covered with the remains of sheaths from fallen leaves. Leaves are 3-6m long, cut deeply into leaflets, rigid with sharp tips and blue green in colour.

Date Palm or Phoenix dactylifera is an evergreen, flowering palm growing up to 30 m tall and up to 40 cm across. The short trunk has suckers at the base. The leaves are 4-6 m long, with spines on the petiole. The fruits are oval-cylindrical and bright red to yellow when ripe. The fruits are used to treat respiratory diseases and fevers. Gum obtained from the tree is used to treat diarrhea. The fruits are edible. It is often dried and eaten raw or used as food sweetener. Sap from the tree can be drunk fresh, fermented, or distilled. Seeds are soaked and ground up for animal feed. Seed oil is used in soap making and in cosmetics. Date palm is salt-tolerant. The leaves are used as thatching material. It yields fiber which can be used to make ropes, baskets, hats, and mats. The wood is strong and resistant to termite attacks. It is used in construction and for fuel.

Flowers

Male and female flowers on different trees; small; white in colour; fragrant; clustered up to 120cm long.

Fruits

Known as dates; edible; dark orange when ripe; 3-7 cm long; contain single grooved woody seed.

Flowering

Late spring.

Fruiting

Summer months.

Habitat

Cultivated throughout UAE at all elevations; tolerant to moderate salinity.

Distribution

Date palms are distributed globally between Somalia in the south and Spain in the north, with concentrations in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Iraq and Iran.

There is doubt about the exact location of the origin of Date Palm, but most experts agree that it was originally found only in the desert oases of North Africa, Arabia, western Asia and Persia. From there it was carried to Pakistani and Indian arid regions as cultivated trees, with some specimens later transported as far as the Arizona desert in America.

Propagation

Seed – pre-soak for 24 hours in warm water and sow in containers. Germination usually takes place in 2 – 3 months. Seed viability can be maintained for 8 – 15 years at room temperature. Division of suckers. Pot up immediately into large containers and plant into permanent positions once the plant is established.

Uses

Dry or soft dates are eaten out of hand, or may be pitted and stuffed with fillings. Dates can also be dehydrated, ground and mixed with grain to form a nutritious stock feed, which is fed to camels and horses.

Almost every part of the tree is useful; date trunks were traditionally used to build houses and forts. Dried leaves (Barasati) used in roofs and fences or as sand barrier. Mats, baskets, belts and camel saddles are made from semi-dried leaves.