Species list


Phoenix dactylifera

Date palm

Date palm (Eng); palmera, palma, palmera datilera (Spa); fasser, palmer, palmera (Cat); palma, palmondoa (Baq); palma, palmeira (Glg); tamareira, tamara, palmeira (Por).


DID YOU KNOW...? The largest palm grove in Europe is in Elche and has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. It contains more than 200,000 specimens and was planted by the Muslims when they settled on the Iberian Peninsula.


The palm date palm may reach 30 m in height and has an open, not very dense crown (with 20-50 leaves). It has a slender trunk, often with shoots at the base. These characteristics differentiate it from the Canary Island date palm (Phoenix canariensis), which has a closed, dense crown (70-100 leaves) and a single, thicker trunk. The leaves are persistent, leathery, very large, and form a plume. Unlike those of its relative, they are bluish or greyish green, smaller (1-6 m long) and upright. They are pinnate and, therefore, on either side of the thick midrib are many segments (pinnae). These are folded, rigid and terminate in a point. Towards the base, these segments become very reduced thorns. There are male trees, which produce pollen, and females, which once fertilised produce the fruit (dates), which form in clusters at the base of the leaves. When they are green they resemble acorns with no cups, but when ripe they become fleshy, brown and sweet. They contain an elongated pit, which has a longitudinal groove and, often, transverse striations.


Thanks to its deep roots, the date palm can reach water at great depths. This makes it resistant to drought and aridity and even enables the tree to grow on saline soils. The Canarian journalist and writer Alberto Vázquez Figueroa describes this characteristic in his novel, Los ojos del tuareg, [The Eyes of the Tuareg]: "Palms tend to have their heads in the fire and their feet in the water". On the Canaries, it mainly lives in the thermophilous forests and piso basal lowlands, and it occasionally shares its habitat with the Canary Island date palm. As it is cultured in landscaped areas, it is typical to find groups of date palms close to human settlements, especially in coastal zones.


This species is found naturally from the south of Morocco and Senegal to the coasts of Pakistan. It was introduced into the Canaries several centuries ago, but as there has never been industrial-scale date production on the islands, its presence in the archipelago was anecdotal until recently. Nevertheless, in recent years this has increased exponentially due to its use as an ornamental. Currently, it is considered to have become established in the wild on La Palma, Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura and Lanzarote.