Unusual & Old Fashioned Fruit Trees

Date Palm - Phoenix Dactylifera.

There can be some confusion over this plant in as much as the variety that is nearly always seen on sale in British garden centres is the “Canary Island Date Palm” or Phoenix Canariensis. This spectacular tall palm that will grow up to 20 metres, is often sold as an architectural plant for warmer town gardens, because it will survive a mild winter if it is wrapped well in the Autumn to protect it against the cold, frosty nights of the winter. The Canary Island Palm has a traditional palm shape with all of its leaves, that are up to 5-6 metres in length, at the top of a long thick trunk.

The palm has individual male and female sexed trees with their flowers up to 2 metres in length. Pollinated flowers will produce fruit, but it is NOT the sticky, edible dates that we all see imported and sold as dried dates in packets. These are produced by the true Date Palm the Phoenix Dactylifera. This is a more delicate palm in its appearance with a thinner trunk, smaller, thinner crown and smaller leaves.

The edible Date Palm flowers in April/May and produces much bigger ripe orange fruits than the Canary Palm. The Date Palm suckers freely, but these are normally cut away to keep the single straight trunk.

It is unlikely that you will come across an edible Date Palm tree for sale in the UK, but it is a simple matter to buy a packet of dried dates from a shop and plant a few stones in some pots. They will germinate very easily and will grow quite happily as a pot plant that is kept in the greenhouse over winter and put outside on the patio for the summer, but it would be impossible to grow a palm in a pot big enough to fruit, and unless something dramatic happened to our weather, they would not survive in the garden for enough winters to mature either.

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