Wild Date Palm

© Roger de la Harpe

Name

Wild date palm or Senegal date palm (Phoenix reclinata)

Description

The wild date palm is an evergreen tree that grows no higher than 6 m. Its leaves are about 3 to 4 m long and resemble a feather, comprised of approximately 50 leaflets per side. Leaves located closer to the base are spiny, whereas other leaves are shiny, smooth and dark green. These trees occur in dense stands and some with more bended stems may be taller than the rest. The bark of the wild date palm is dark brown to dark grey.

Wild Date Palm Flowers and Fruit

The flowers of this tree are inflorescence, carried in axils of new leaves close to the stem’s apex. Different genders grow on different plants. The female florets are small, round and yellow-green, whereas the male florets are a light dirty-yellow. The fruits measure only 2.3 cm by 1.4 cm and grow in large, hanging clusters. The pulp of the fruit is fleshy and yellow, browning with age and having a singular seed.

Where they are found

The wild date palm does not occur in arid areas. It flourishes in swamps or coastal estuaries where there are permanent high water tables. Being water dependent, this tree serves as an early indicator of permanent water flow, even if no water is visible at the time.

Field Notes

Its fruit are eaten by birds, mammals and humans. The heart of the wild date palm is eaten as a vegetable. In Botswana and South Africa, the plant is tapped for sap before it blooms, which is made into palm wine.