Arecaceae (palm family) Phoenix

Phoenix dactylifera date palm

Middle East
‘Mejdool’ date palms in Jack McDonald Hall. Sairus Patel, 20 Apr 2023

The only true date palms on campus, it was said for many years, were the ones gracing the hills of Bethany in Christ Blessing the People, the façade mosaic of Memorial Church. But in 2021, a stroll past the hoary specimen of what was long thought to be a Canary Island date palm, tucked between Okada and its Resident Fellow’s cottage in Wilbur Hall, proved that the prized date palm of the Middle East has not been a stranger to campus. Its fronds were grayer than its Canary Island cousin, and the flesh of a fallen date, though thin, was distinctly sweet. But the clearest tip-off was the multiple stem buds leafing out from its base: the date palm, like the Mediterranean fan (Chamaerops humilis), wants to form a clump of stems.

In 2016, six specimens of famed variety ‘Mejdool’ with trunks 25 feet tall were transplanted into the east inner courtyard of Jack McDonald Hall (then named Highland Hall). Their flowering and fruiting (if any) should be watched closely.

In Palo Alto, see date palms in the bus stop island at the downtown CalTrain station. A few surround tranquil pools in the Rosicrucian Park’s Peace Garden in San Jose. Coachella Valley in Southern California is the center of North America’s date industry. Date palms in the Furnace Creek area of Death Valley National Park have naturalized.

Name derivation: Phoenix – The Greek name for the date palm; dactylifera – Greek daktylos, date, or finger; Latin fero, to bear.

About this Entry: Added Apr 2023 (SP).