Indigenous date palm
Scientific name: Phoenix dactylifera
Date palm tree is grown extensively in arid and semiarid regions of the world such as North Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, and Iran. Date palm is a single-stemmed, evergreen palm tree growing 15 - 40 metres tall. The unbranched stem is topped by a terminal crown of 100 - 120 leaves that can each be 4 - 7 metres long on a short stem up to 50cm long.
Date fruits are demulcent, expectorant and laxative, they are used to treat respiratory diseases and fevers. The tree yields a gum that is used in treating diarrhoea.
The fruit is often dried and then eaten raw or used to add sweetness to a variety of foods such as cakes, confectionary and fruit pies.
The leaves are widely used for a variety of purposes, for example, they are used to make thatch, roofs and walls of huts. A fibre obtained from the leaves, base of the leaves and bark can be used to make ropes, baskets, hats and mats. The dried leaves, with their stiff and woody rachis are used for fencing. The wood in the outer portion of the stem is strong and resistant to termites and its very valued for use in construction.
Being a salt-tolerant species, the date has been used for decades for the revegetation of salt affected lands in the Mediterranean region. Whilst young, date trees occupy a lot of space, so a decision to introduce it into cultivated fields must be taken carefully. But once mature, the 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.
Date palm is a plant of drier areas in the tropics, where it is found at elevations up to 1,500 metres. Hot dry conditions are required for free fruiting, the fruit not forming very readily in cooler or moister climates. It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are within the range 26 - 45°c, but can tolerate 10 - 52°c. When dormant, the plant can survive temperatures down to about -15°c, but the leaves and young growth can be severely damaged at -4°c. It prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range 200 - 300mm, but tolerates 100 - 400mm.