Phoenix dactylifera

Invasive species Disclaimer

In view of the fact that some tree species are invasive, the world Agroforestry Center (ICRAF) has put in place a policy document on Invasive Alien Species, currently under draft available at Here.

For more information on this subject, please refer to
100 of the World's worst Invasive and Alien Species.

Species Index    A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
Multiple Criteria Search

Abelmoschus moschatus
Acacia aneura
Acacia angustissima
Acacia aulacocarpa
Acacia auriculiformis
Acacia catechu
Acacia cincinnata
Acacia crassicarpa
Acacia elatior
Acacia erioloba
Acacia etbaica
Acacia ferruginea
Acacia glauca
Acacia holosericea
Acacia karroo*
Acacia koa
Acacia laeta
Acacia lahai
Acacia leptocarpa
Acacia leucophloea
Acacia mangium
Acacia mearnsii*
Acacia melanoxylon
Acacia mellifera
Acacia nilotica subsp nilotica
Acacia pachycarpa
Acacia pennatula
Acacia polyacantha ssp. polyacantha
Acacia saligna
Acacia senegal
Acacia seyal
Acacia sieberiana
Acacia tortilis
Acacia xanthophloea
Acrocarpus fraxinifolius
Adansonia digitata
Adenanthera pavonina
Aegle marmelos
Afzelia africana
Afzelia quanzensis
Agathis macrophylla
Agathis philippinensis
Ailanthus altissima
Ailanthus excelsa
Ailanthus triphysa
Albizia adianthifolia
Albizia amara
Albizia anthelmintica
Albizia chinensis
Albizia coriaria
Albizia ferruginea
Albizia gummifera
Albizia julibrissin
Albizia lebbeck
Albizia odoratissima
Albizia procera
Albizia saman
Albizia versicolor
Albizia zygia
Aleurites moluccana
Allanblackia floribunda
Allanblackia stuhlmannii
Allanblackia ulugurensis
Alnus acuminata
Alnus cordata
Alnus japonica
Alnus nepalensis
Alnus rubra
Alphitonia zizyphoides
Alstonia boonei
Alstonia congensis
Alstonia scholaris
Altingia excelsa
Anacardium occidentale
Andira inermis
Annona cherimola
Annona muricata
Annona reticulata
Annona senegalensis
Annona squamosa
Anogeissus latifolia
Anthocephalus cadamba
Antiaris toxicaria
Antidesma bunius
Araucaria bidwillii
Araucaria cunninghamii
Arbutus unedo
Areca catechu
Arenga pinnata
Argania spinosa
Artemisia annua
Artocarpus altilis
Artocarpus camansi
Artocarpus heterophyllus
Artocarpus integer
Artocarpus lakoocha
Artocarpus mariannensis
Asimina triloba
Ateleia herbert-smithii
Aucomea klaineana
Averrhoa bilimbi
Averrhoa carambola
Azadirachta excelsa
Azadirachta indica
Azanza garckeana
Related Links
A tree affected by Fusarium oxysporum f.sp. albedinis showing wet feather symptoms
© FAO in collaboration with CABI
Fusarium oxysporum f.sp. albedinis cultures
© FAO in collaboration with CABI
A precocious date palm bunch from an EMBRAPA trial in Bahia, Brazil. The palms are from tissue culture clones.
© Griffee P.
Habit with fruits at Baldwin Ave, Maui, Hawaii
© Forest and Kim Starr
Habit at Baldwin Ave, Maui, Hawaii
© Forest and Kim Starr
Phoenix dactylifera planted in rows.
© Kenneth M. Gale, ,

Local names:
Amharic (yetemir zaf), Arabic (temer,tamar,khuriude-yális,nakhal), Bengali (khajur), Creole (datte), Dutch (dadelpalm), English (wild date palm,date,sugar palm,date palm), French (dattier,dattie,palmier dattier,datte), German (dattelpalme), Hindi (ittapp

Phoenix dactylifera grows to a height of over 30 m; the stem and new leaves grow from the single terminal bud at the stem apex; roots grow from the base of the trunk, sometimes 50 cm above the ground; main roots about 1.5 cm thick.

Leaves enormous, up to 7 m long with a relatively short (50 cm) rachis base or petiole; pinnate, the 50-60 pairs of leaflets long and narrow, attached to a stout central midrib or rachis. They have a normal life of 3-7 years.

Inflorescence is produced in the axil of a 1-year-old leaf; a branched spadix enclosed in a tough spathe that bursts open when the flowers are mature. Male flowers waxy and creamy with 6 stamens and no carpels; female flowers whitish, with 6 rudimentary stamens and 3 carpels.

Fruits are yellow to reddish-brown, each with a single seed up to 2.5 cm long, deeply grooved, with a very hard endosperm. There are hundreds of date cultivars, of which only about 60 are widely grown throughout the 15 major date-growing countries.

‘Phoenix’ is a very old name, used by Theophrastus, indicating that the tree was 1st introduced to the Greeks by the Phoenicians. The specific name derives from the elongated shape of the fruits, resembling the fingers of the hand, from the Greek word ‘dactylos’ (finger), and the Latin word ‘fero’ (I bear).


For commercial production, a long summer with high day and night temperatures, a mild winter without prolonged frost, and dry and sunny weather at pollination, flowering and fruit setting are adequate. Its high salt tolerance is largely attributable to its chloride ions exclusion ability during water absorption from saline soils this however reduces growth and results in poor quality fruits.

Native range
Morocco, Palestine

Tree management

After being removed from the mother tree, the trunk suckers must be planted precisely at a spacing of 9-10 m apart in their locations. Watering is essential in the 1st 1 or 2 years, and they must be weeded. Initial growth is slow while the number of leaves increases gradually; the dead leaves are usually removed. Pollination is critical for good fruiting; therefore, pollen is usually artificially introduced to the female flowers by cutting male inflorescence and placing it strategically within the female one, which may be thinned a little to accommodate it. It is important that male trees are planted with females in ratios of about 1:50.

Seed storage behaviour is orthodox, with little loss in viability after 1 year of storage at room temperature; viability can be maintained for 8-15 years at room temperature. Seeds tolerate desiccation to 5.8% mc; no loss in viability after 3 years of subsequent hermetic storage. There are approximately 800 seed/kg.

For commercial production, a long summer with high day and night temperatures, a mild winter without prolonged frost, and dry and sunny weather at pollination, flowering and fruit setting are adequate. Its high salt tolerance is largely attributable to its chloride ions exclusion ability during water absorption from saline soils this however reduces growth and results in poor quality fruits.

P. dactylifera hardly occurs in the natural state, so natural regeneration cannot be said to occur. Propagation is usually done by trunk suckers, which may be carefully removed from the mother tree. Propagation from seed is done when there are no mature mother trees in the locality; this poses no particular problems but takes longer. The seeds are sown in containers and the young seedlings grown in the nursery for about 1 year before planting out in the field.

Being a halophytic species, P. dactylifera has been used for decades for the revegetation of salt affected lands in the Mediterranean region.

Erosion control:  The leaves are applied in sand dune stabilization.

  The most important use of P. dactylifera is for its fruit, which forms the staple diet of many people in Africa and the Middle East and is as well a cash crop for export. The seeds are roasted and kernels ground as a coffee substitute. Terminal bud leaves are eaten as a vegetable. The sap can be boiled into unrefined sugar.

The seeds (stones) when ground and softened by soaking in water are used for feeding camels, goats and horses and have successfully been substituted as a poultry feed.

The wood can be used as fuelwood.

Fibre:  The leaves are used in mats, ropes, fans and baskets; the petiole yields a fibre, which together with other suitable material is used for insulating boards.

Timber:  The trunks are strong and resistant to termites, providing much valued construction timber.

Shade or shelter:  Old leaves of P. dactylifera are used for thatching.

Medicine:  Dates are a demulcent, an expectorant and a laxative, and are used to treat respiratory diseases and fever. The tree yields a gum used in treating diarrhoea.

Ornamental: The genus Phoenix is one of the most widely cultivated groups of palms, its species being extensively used for bold landscape planting, as individual specimens, for avenue planting, and to a lesser extent, as potted plants.

Dried leaves with their stiff, woody rachis are used for fencing.

Soil improver:  Prunings of leaves are used as manure.

Intercropping:  P. dactylifera while young occupies a lot of space, so a decision to introduce it into cultivated fields must be taken carefully. But once mature, its wide crown grows high above the field crops, and it little affects the yield of cultivated crops. In many places, numerous palms are found in arable fields of suitable regions.

Alcohol:  Wherever fruiting is poor, the sap is the main product. It can be drunk fresh, fermented and drunk as toddy, or distilled and drunk as arrack. The yield of sap varies with management and site conditions, but it is in the range of 4-8 l/day.