Facts about the Date Palm Tree - Description and Uses
The Date Palm tree is one among the oldest trees in the world. The Date Palm tree was cultivated in the fifth century BC in Egypt and Mesopotamia. It has been cultivated in the Middle East for more than 10,000 years. The Date Palm Tree is found in the Middle East, the Canary Islands, South Africa, India, and California.
Description of the Date Palm Tree
The botanical name for the Date Palm Tree is Phoenix dactylifera. It belongs to the Palm family. The Date Palm Tree is a tall and evergreen tree that has no branches.
The tree grows to about 23 m in height. The trunk of the tree is surrounded by marks of old leaf bases. 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 of the Date Palm
Flowers are borne in bunches at the top of the tree. They are dioecious (separate male trees and female trees). The female tree produces the fruit. The male tree produces pollen enough to pollinate 40-50 trees. Each female tree produces 5–10 bunches of dates annually (150 pounds in weight).
Pollination occurs naturally by the pollen carried in the wind. In palm tree plantations the pollination is artificial. Date Palm Trees bear fruit after 3 – 5 years. Date clusters hang down from the crown of the tree.
The date fruit is a drupe and has only one seed. The portion surrounding the seed is soft pulpy and is edible. Unripe dates are green in color, as they mature they become a reddish brown or dark brown in color.
The dates ripen in four stages – sun dried, ripe, soft ripe, crunchy and full size. Dates are oval to cylindrical in shape with dimensions of 3 - 7 cm in length and 2 -3 cm in width.
Dates can be classified as soft, semi-soft, dry dates. Chewy, dry dates stay for a longer time without getting spoiled when compared to other date varieties. Dates can be frozen for a long time.
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
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 desert dishes.
In North Africa, Ghana and India the sap from the Date Palm Tree is collected and used during the conversion of 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 foot bridges. 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 thick 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 a yellow to orange in color measuring 2 cm in length and 1 cm in width. The fruit pulp is edible but is very sparse. It is mostly 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 trunk of the tree gracefully curves towards the ground, bowed down by the weight of the feathery fronds.