Date Palm - Phoenix dactylifera

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. 1

Phoenix dactylifera Unripe Yellow Fruit Ripening Unripe and Ripe Fruit Ripe Dates

Fig. 1 

Unripe Yellow Fruit

Fig. 2 

Fruit Ripening

Fig. 3  

Unripe and Ripe Fruit

Fig. 4 
Ripe Dates
Fresh Dates Date Flesh Fruit on Phoenix dactylifira P. dactylifera Older Individual/Multiple Stems

Fig. 5 

Fresh Dates

Fig. 6 

Date Flesh

Fig. 7  

Unripe and Ripe Fruit

Fig. 8 
Older Individual/Multiple Stems

Although there are many palms that we call "date palms"; pygmy date palm (Phoenix roebelenii) pdf , Senegal date palm (Phoenix reclinata) pdf, Canary Island date palm (Phoenix canariensis) pdf 6 pages are just a few. However the "true" date palm from which the tasty fruit is obtained is Phoenix dactylifera which is 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 leaf stem. Leaflets near the base are modified into sharp 3-4 in (7.6-10.2 cm) spines. 1

Date seller in the old souq in Kuwait City, surrounded by dates from Kuwait, Iran, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere
Fig. 9 
Date seller in the old souq in Kuwait City, surrounded by dates from Kuwait, Iran, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere.

Date palm leaves are used for Palm Sunday in the Christian religion. In North Africa, they are commonly used for making huts. Mature leaves are also made into mats, screens, baskets and fans. Processed leaves can be used for insulating board. Dried leaf petioles are a source of cellulose pulp, used for walking sticks, brooms, fishing floats and fuel. Leaf sheaths are prized for their scent, and fibre from them is also used for rope, coarse cloth, and large hats. The leaves are also used as a lulav in the Jewish holiday of Sukkot.

Young date leaves are cooked and eaten as a vegetable, as is the terminal bud or heart, though its removal kills the palm. The finely ground seeds are mixed with flour to make bread in times of scarcity. The flowers of the date palm are also edible. Traditionally the female flowers are the most available for sale and weigh 300–400 grams. The flower buds are used in salad or ground with dried fish to make a condiment for bread. 2

Back to
Date Palm Page


1 Sheper, John. "Phoenix dactylifera". Created 22 May 1999. Updated 30 May 1999. Web. 12 Apr. 2014.

2 "Date Palm". May 2009. Web. 9 May 2014.


Fig. 1,2,3,4,6,7 Phoenix dactylifera. N.d. Plant catalog. Web. 16 Jan. 2014.

Fig. 5 Zachbe. I took this photo of dates I bought from a street cart in Cairo. 2008. Web. 9 May 2014.

Fig. 8 Anderson, Patti, J. Phoenix dactylifera.  2011. Identifying Commonly Cultivated Palms, a Resource for Pests and Diseases of Cultivated Palms. Web. 16 Jan. 2014.

Fig. 9 Hudson, Trammell. Date seller in the old souq in Kuwait City, surrounded by dates from Kuwait, Iran, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere. 2006. Web. 9 May 2014.

Published 12 April 2014 LR. Last update 14 May 2014 LR

© 2013 -
about credits disclaimer sitemap updates