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Palmaceae Phoenix dactylifera L.

Source: Magness et al. 1971

Date fruits are borne on palm trees that grow only from a terminal bud. Palms may begin to fruit at 5 to 6 feet in height, but increase in height each year; and there is no way to prevent this without killing the plant. Thus in older plantings the fruit, which is produced only near the top, may be 20 or more feet in the air. Fruit is produced in large bunches on strands. A bunch may have 40 or more strands, each carrying up to 20 or more fruits. In commercial production, strands are usually pruned off to about half length to improve fruit size and quality. Bunches are often covered with weather resistant paper, open at the bottom, to protect from rain, birds and to some extent insects. Production in the U.S. is mainly in California, with some in Arizona.

Individual fruits vary in shape from nearly round to cylindrical and from 0.75 to 1 inch diameter. Each contains a single rather large seed. Surface is smooth in the growing fruit, becoming wrinkled as the fruit ripens and loses moisture. Fruit of most varieties loses most of its moisture before barvest.

Season, bloom to harvest: 7 to 8 months.

Production in U.S.: About 23,000 tons.

Use: Mainly dried and made into confections or eaten out of hand.

Part of fruit consumed: All except seed.

(Pictures: J. Janick) Last update February 18, 1999 by ch