A botany graduate, Nithya Venkat enjoys writing about plants that help sustain life on planet Earth.
The date palm tree is one of the oldest trees in the world. It was cultivated in the fifth century BC in Egypt and Mesopotamia.
Dates are considered to be the oldest cultivated fruit in the world. Fossil records show that date palm trees thrived fifty million years ago. Wide varieties of dates are grown around the world.
The date palm trees can be found growing in the Middle East, the Canary Islands, South Africa, India, and California.
Description of the Date Palm Tree
The scientific name for the date palm tree is Phoenix dactylifera. It belongs to the palm family. The date palm tree is tall and evergreen with no branches. It grows to about 23 m in height. Marks of old leaf bases surround the trunk of the tree.
The tree trunk ends with a crown of leaves. Each leaf is about 5 m in length. The leaf of the date palm tree has a strong midrib, with narrow pinnate leaflets on either side of the midrib.
Floral bunches are found between the tree and the leaf base. They are long and hang down from the top of the palm tree.
Flowers and Pollination of the Date Palm Tree
Flowers are borne in bunches at the top of the tree. Date palms are dioecious (separate male trees and female trees). The female tree produces the fruit. The male tree produces enough pollen to pollinate 40-50 trees—floral spikes branch from the axil of the leaves that emerged in the previous year.
The flower stalks of both the male and the female date palms are produced inside a spathe. The spathe emerges from the axil of the leaves in early spring in mature date palms.
The date palm flowers form inside the stout spathe, which bursts, exposing many thickly crowded floral branchlets inside. These are thicker and shorter in the male date palm inflorescence, and the branches are long and slender in the female date palm inflorescence.
Adult female date palms produce 5 - 20 spathes in early spring. The male flowers are borne single, white and waxy, while the female flowers are borne in clusters of three and are yellowish-green.
A male spathe that is ready to spit open changes color from green to brown and becomes slightly softer before bursting open, and the male inflorescence appears and soon reaches its maturity.
Date palms pollinate naturally by wind, bees, and other insects. However, commercial date production requires artificial pollination methods.
The date fruit is a drupe and has only one seed. The portion surrounding the seed is soft pulpy, and edible. Unripe dates are green in color; as they mature, they become reddish-brown or dark brown.
The date fruit is usually oblong but varies in shape, size, color, quality, and consistency of flesh depending upon the culture and variety. More than a thousand dates appear in a single bunch weighing 8 kg or more.
Dates are oval to cylindrical with 3 - 7 cm in length and 2 -3 cm in width. Dates can be classified as soft, semi-dry, and dry dates. Chewy, dry dates stay for a longer time without getting spoiled when compared to other date varieties. In addition, dates can be frozen for a long time.
Types of Dates
Soft dates such as Medjool, Khadrawy, Halawy, and Barhi have sweet, creamy flesh because of their high moisture content.
Semi-dry dates such as Deglet Noor and Zahidi have less moisture, sweetness, and chewiness.
Dry dates such as Thoory are called bread dates because they have hard, dry skin and very little moisture.
Dates are rich in vitamin C. Each date provides 20 calories and is an excellent source of carbohydrates, fiber, manganese, copper, magnesium, and potassium.
Dates are beneficial for intestinal disorders and to maintain a check of pathological organisms in the intestines, thereby promoting the growth of friendly bacteria. The date syrup is also used to increase the hemoglobin content in the blood and helps anemic patients.
Uses of the Date Palm Tree
Fresh dates can be consumed raw after removing the seed. They are highly nutritious. The pulp of the date is used in many dishes such as – cakes, bread puddings, sweets, and other dessert dishes.
In North Africa, Ghana, and India, the sap from the Date Palm Tree is collected and used to convert sugar, alcoholic drink, and molasses.
Date pulp is processed into many forms, such as syrup and spreads. Date pulp is also used as fillings in biscuits.
The trunk of the Date Palm Tree is used to make poles, beams, rafters, pillars, jetties, and light footbridges. They are cut into planks and are used for making doors, shutters, and staircases. The trunk is also used for firewood.
The leaves used for fencing to make thatched roofs and for religious purposes. Leaf bases are used for fuel; the midribs of the leaves are strong and used to make crates and furniture. The leaflets are sewn together to make baskets, mats, fans, and hats.
The fruit stalks are used for decoration at home and are also eaten by camels.
Here are some other varieties of the Date Palm tree -
Canary Island Date Palm
The botanical name of the Canary Island Date Palm is Phoenix canariensis. This palm is also known as Pineapple Palm because of the unique pineapple shape it forms after trimming the branches.
This date palm is slow in growth and reaches a height of 40 - 50 feet. This tree has a single upright, thick trunk with no branches. The trunk is 4 - 5 feet wide with diamond-shaped patterns from old leaf scars. The leaves are extremely sharp, with spines at their base. The leaves are pinnate and 3 - 4 m long.
The dates are yellow to orange, measuring 2 cm in length and 1 cm in width. The fruit pulp is edible but very sparse. Therefore, it is mainly used for landscaping purposes.
Senegal Date Palms
The botanical name of the Senegal date palm is Phoenix reclinata. This date palm has a slender brown trunk; this trunk is topped with stiff-leaf fronds on either side of a central midrib.
The Senegal date palm can reach about 12 – 20 feet. This palm is used for landscaping purposes. The flower stalks are long and slender, and the tree trunk gracefully curves towards the ground, bowed down by the weight of the feathery fronds.
© 2012 Nithya Venkat
bob on October 12, 2019:
amazing work you know you stuff
Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on April 21, 2013:
poshcofeeco thank you for reading, for the vote and share. Date Palm tree is very useful and the dates are delicious.
Steve Mitchell from Cambridgeshire on April 21, 2013:
I've had a couple of goes at growing date palms but it is just too cold in the uk, not to mention wet. It is a lovely tree though. I never knew it was the oldest tree in the world though. Thanks for telling is this.
Vote up and shared.
Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on June 11, 2012:
prarieprincess thank you, dates are great out here.I eat the best dates here in Dubai. They are very healthy and have a special place in the Arab culture.
Sharilee Swaity from Canada on June 10, 2012:
Vellur, this was very interesting. I did not know that it is the female tree that produces the fruit. I have become more interested in dates because of meeting some students from Oman who told me how important dates are to the Arab culture. They also gave me a big bag of dates as a treasured gift. And they definitely do taste much better from there, than the ones we get in Canada!
Thanks for teaching me more about this interesting tree. Take care!
Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on March 31, 2012:
Blossom SB thank you for reading and your comment.Dates are extremely tasty and nutritious.Date Palm trees tend to vary in height.
Bronwen Scott-Branagan from Victoria, Australia on March 31, 2012:
Is the Canary Islands date palm taller that other ones? Some things seem to grow tall there, we were able to walk under the heather, which we found amazing. When my husband worked for a short while in Alice Springs in Central Australia, we visited a date palm farm and were able to taste date from several different varieties of palms. Thank you for your interesting hub.
Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on March 29, 2012:
Jackie Lynnley thank you for your appreciation and marking up. Am on top of the world.
teaches 12345 thank you for your appreciation and comment. Dates are taste great and nutritious.
Dianna Mendez on March 28, 2012:
Now I know where dates come from and how to use them in different dishes. I love their sweet taste and eat them raw when I get them. I didn't know that they could be frozen. Also, the fact that they provide Vitamin C is another plus for this fruit. Great hub topic and so well written. Thanks for sharing.
Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on March 28, 2012:
Wow this is some good stuff to know, am bookmarking this and marking up!
Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on March 28, 2012:
yaazhni thankyou for reading and the comment.
yaazhini from Chennai on March 28, 2012:
A well researched article. Interesting facts and good work.