15 Phoenix sylvestris Roxb.
English name: Date-sugar palm, Indian winepalm, sugar palm, wild date-palm
Indian names: pedda-ita (Andhra Pradesh); kajar, kejur (Bengal); kharak. khakri (Gujrat); khujjoor, khajroo (Himachal Pradesh); khajur, khajuri (Hindi); andadayichali, sunindu (Karnataka); inta kattinta (Kerala); sendi, boichand, sendri (Maharashtra); khajuri, kohari (Orissa); khajur (Punjab); khajuri, dushpradarsha (Sanskrit); icham (Tamilnadu).
Phoenix sylvestris Roxb. is gregarious in many parts of India. It is commonly found on low ground in the sub-Himalayan tract, along the Ramganga River in Rohilkhand and along river banks and on stretches of low ground in the Deccan and Mysore (Brandis, 1906).
In Himachal Pradesh, it is found in all the districts in forests up to elevations of 1,350 metres. Wild date-trees are growing abundantly on the hill slopes at Jabli (17 km from Kalka towards Simla) and its adjoining areas where thousands of plants of this species can be seen.
An unbranched, erect, tall dioecious, evergreen tree, 4 to 8 metres in height with large persistent leaves in a terminal tuft; stem clothed with persistent bases of leaf-stalks; root suckers, absent.
Leaves, compound, 1.5 to 2 metres in length, green with a. few spines at the base, each leaf containing numerous (120), pinnae which are linear, 26.5 cm long and sharply pointed at the end.
Staminate flowers, sessile, 7 mm long, 5 mm broad; perianth, 3, each 6 mm long, 2 mm broad, creamish; androecium, polyandrous, with 6 stamens; anther-lobes, about 3 mm long; filament, very short; anthers dehisce longitudinally, releasing white pollen.
Pistillate flowers, sessile, 4 min long perianth green, circular, cupshaped, three-toothed, small gynoecium, with. 3 distinct carpels; style, curved and very small.
Flowers, borne on a spadix covered by a spathe which is 29.5 cm long; the spathe separates into two boat-shaped halves, exposing the flowers at maturity; both male and female inflorescences, about 25 cm long, bearing about 2,800 flowers.
Fruits, oblong, 1.4 to 1.7 cm long, 0.9 to 1.1 cm in diameter, weight 542 mg, volume, 447 microlitres, deep purple to black; a bunch of fruits weighed 1,321.5 g and contained 2,390 fruits.
The flowering and fruiting season
The flowering season of this plant was observed to be from the first to the third week of August in the case of plants growing around Jabli. The fruits take almost one year for attaining maturity. The ripening starts from the first week of June and continues till the middle of July.
A wild date-tree yields very much less than a cultivated date-palm (Phoenix dactylifera L.). The trees of Phoenix sylvestris Roxb. under Jabli conditions were found to yield only about 7 kg of fruit.
Chemical composition of the fruit
The major chemical constituents of the fruit pulp were found to be as follows :
Moisture, 66.7%; total soluble solids, 18.42%; sugars, 18.42 (mostly reducing)%; vitamin C, 9.42 mg per hundred g; pectin, 0.51%; protein, 1.12%; ash, 3.261%; phosphorus, 0.042%; potassium,.0.549%; calcium, 0.139% magnesium, 0.006% and iron, 0.007%.
The fruit is cooling, oleaginous, cardiotonic, fattening, constipative, good in heart complaints, abdominal complaints, fevers, vomiting and loss of consciousness. The juice obtained from the tree is considered to be a cooling beverage. The roots are used to stop toothache. The fruit pounded and mixed with almonds, quince seeds, pistachio nuts and sugar, form a restorative remedy (Kirtikar and Basu. 1935). The central tender part of the plant is used in gonorrhoea (Watt, 1892).
The fruits are harvested unripe by removing the whole bunches. They are then kept covered with wheat straw. They ripen within two three days.
The fruits are seedy, and the seed occupies more than half of the fruit. The fruits are sweet. The overall fruit quality is good.
The sweet fruits of this plant are eaten by all. However, the rains at the time of ripening cause much damage to the fruits. Mites were also observed to be an important pest of wild dates, causing a lot of damage to the fruits.
The trunk is used by the villagers in the construction of houses, it forming the supporting beam of the roof. Halved trunks are used for diverting the water into the turbines of water-mills. The leaves are used for making brooms, fans, floor mats, etc.
The plants growing in the plains yield a good amount of juice which is used for making toddy and jaggery. The juice, as such, can also be drunk.
The tree provides a good fodder for milk cattle and is believed to increase the fat content of milk.
It is an ornamental tree and can also be used as an avenue plant.