Phoenix L.
  • Sp. Pl.: 1188 (1753) 

Notes: Distribution: Africa, Kriti to W. & C. Malesia

General Description

Dwarf or creeping to large, solitary or clustered, armed, pleonanthic, dioecious palms. Stem, when developed, often clothed with spirally arranged leaf bases. Leaves induplicate, pinnate, usually marcescent; sheath forming a fibrous network; petiole very short to well developed, adaxially channelled to flattened or ridged, abaxially rounded; rachis elongate, tapering, adaxially rounded or flat to angled, abaxially rounded to flat, usually terminating in a leaflet; leaflets single-fold, acute, regularly arranged or variously grouped, the proximal few modified as spines (acanthophylls), parallel-veined, midrib usually evident abaxially, often bearing scales, emergent leaves frequently with brown floccose indumentum and/or wax, transverse veinlets obscure. Inflorescences interfoliar, branching to 1 order, the staminate and pistillate superficially similar; peduncle flattened, short to elongate, in the pistillate frequently elongating after fertilization, bearing an often caducous, sometimes bivalved, 2-keeled, glabrous or floccose-hairy prophyll; other bracts inconspicuous; rachis flattened, usually shorter than the peduncle; rachillae unbranched, numerous, often in groups in a spiral along the rachis, somewhat adnate above small triangular bracts, the rachillae bearing spirally arranged, low triangular bracts, each subtending a solitary flower. Staminate flowers with 3 sepals connate in a low cupule; petals 3, ± valvate, acute or rounded, much exceeding the calyx; stamens usually 6 (rarely 3 or 9), filaments short, erect, the anthers linear, latrorse; pistillode absent, or of 3 abortive carpels, or a minute trifid vestige. Pollen ellipsoidal, bi-symmetric or very slightly asymmetric; aperture a distal sulcus; ectexine tectate, coarsely perforate, finely reticulate, foveolate, or perforate-rugulate; aperture margin slightly finer, psilate or scabrate; infratectum columellate; longest axis 17–30 µm [11/13]. Pistillate flowers globose; sepals connate in a 3-lobed cupule; petals imbricate, strongly-nerved, about twice as long as the calyx or more; staminodes usually 6, scale-like or connate in a low cupule; carpels 3, distinct, follicular, ± ovoid, narrowed into a short, recurved, exserted stigma, ovule attached adaxially at the base, anatropous. Fruit usually developing from 1 carpel, ovoid to oblong with apical stigmatic remains; epicarp smooth, mesocarp fleshy, endocarp membranous. Seed elongate, terete or plano-convex, and deeply grooved with intruded seed coat below the elongate raphe, hilum basal, rounded, endosperm homogeneous or rarely ruminate (Phoenix anadamanensis); embryo lateral or subbasal. Germination remote-tubular; eophyll undivided, narrowly lanceolate. Cytology: 2n = 32, 36.

Diagnostic Description

The Date Palms. Solitary or clustering dioecious pinnate-leaved palms of the Old World, usually in arid or semi-arid areas, sometimes in mangrove or monsoon forest, instantly recognisable by the induplicate leaflets with spine-like tips, and the acanthophylls at the leaf base; inflorescence with a single large bract.


Central vascular bundles of the petioles with a single phloem strand (Parthasarathy 1968). Leaf (Tomlinson 1961), roots (Seubert 1997), floral (Uhl and Moore 1971, 1977a, DeMason et al. 1982), axillary bud, inflorescence, offshoot (Hilgeman 1954), seed (Werker 1997).


Most species are plants of semi-arid regions but grow near water courses, oases, or underground water sources; a few species are found in tropical monsoonal areas. Phoenix paludosa occurs in the Asian perhumid regions, where it is confined to the landward fringe of mangrove forest. Phoenix roebelenii grows as a rheophyte on the banks of the Mekong and some of its tributaries.


14 species ranging from the Atlantic islands through Africa, Crete, the Middle East and India to Hong Kong, Taiwan, Philippines, Sumatra and Malaya. Widely cultivated as ornamentals, one species, Phoenix dactylifera, the date palm, is a major economic plant, now widespread in semi-arid areas as a fruit tree.


The genus is immensely important from an economic point of view. It includes not only the date palm, the major crop of several Middle Eastern countries and of lesser importance elsewhere, but also other species that are widely used as sources of fibre for weaving, starch, sugar, and a multiplicity of purposes such as thatch and fuel. Many species are widely grown as ornamentals. Phoenix roebelenii is commercially important as a pot plant. Species are known to hybridise freely. For references on uses, see Johnson (1983a, 1984). For a summary of uses, see Johnson (1985).

Common Names

Variously designated as date palms, as wild date (Phoenix sylvestris), roebelin or miniature date (P. roebelenii).

Distribution Map

  • Native distribution
  • Introduced distribution
Found in
  • Africa East Tropical Africa Kenya
  • Tanzania
  • Uganda
  • Macaronesia Canary Is.
  • Cape Verde
  • Northeast Tropical Africa Chad
  • Djibouti
  • Eritrea
  • Ethiopia
  • Somalia
  • South Tropical Africa Angola
  • Malawi
  • Mozambique
  • Zambia
  • Zimbabwe
  • Southern Africa Botswana
  • Cape Provinces
  • Caprivi Strip
  • KwaZulu-Natal
  • Namibia
  • Northern Provinces
  • Swaziland
  • West Tropical Africa Benin
  • Burkina
  • Gambia, The
  • Ghana
  • Guinea
  • Guinea-Bissau
  • Ivory Coast
  • Liberia
  • Nigeria
  • Senegal
  • Sierra Leone
  • Togo
  • West-Central Tropical Africa Burundi
  • Cameroon
  • Central African Republic
  • Congo
  • Gabon
  • Rwanda
  • Zaire
  • Western Indian Ocean Comoros
  • Madagascar
  • Mozambique Channel Is.
  • Asia-Temperate Arabian Peninsula Gulf States
  • Oman
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Yemen
  • China China South-Central
  • China Southeast
  • Hainan
  • Eastern Asia Taiwan
  • Western Asia East Aegean Is.
  • Iran
  • Iraq
  • Sinai
  • Turkey
  • Asia-Tropical Indian Subcontinent Assam
  • Bangladesh
  • East Himalaya
  • India
  • Nepal
  • Pakistan
  • Sri Lanka
  • West Himalaya
  • Indo-China Andaman Is.
  • Cambodia
  • Laos
  • Myanmar
  • Nicobar Is.
  • Thailand
  • Vietnam
  • Malesia Malaya
  • Philippines
  • Sumatera
  • Europe Southeastern Europe Kriti
  • Southern America Caribbean Bermuda
Introduced into
  • Africa Macaronesia Madeira
  • Northeast Tropical Africa Socotra
  • Northern Africa Algeria
  • Egypt
  • Libya
  • Morocco
  • Tunisia
  • Western Sahara
  • West Tropical Africa Mali
  • Mauritania
  • West-Central Tropical Africa Gulf of Guinea Is.
  • Western Indian Ocean Mauritius
  • Réunion
  • Asia-Temperate Western Asia Afghanistan
  • Australasia Australia New South Wales
  • Norfolk Is.
  • Northern Territory
  • Queensland
  • South Australia
  • Victoria
  • Western Australia
  • Europe Southeastern Europe Italy
  • Southwestern Europe Spain
  • Northern America Mexico Mexico Northwest
  • Southeastern U.S.A. Florida
  • Southwestern U.S.A. California
  • Pacific Southwestern Pacific Fiji
  • New Caledonia
  • Southern America Caribbean Cayman Is.
  • Cuba
  • Dominican Republic
  • Leeward Is.
  • Puerto Rico
  • Central America El Salvador


  • 1 J. Dransfield & N. Uhl & C. Asmussen & W.J. Baker & M. Harley & C. Lewis, Genera Palmarum. The evolution and classification of palms. 2008
  • 2 Govaerts, R. & Dransfield, J. (2005). World Checklist of Palms: 1-223. The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

 Information From

Palmweb - Palms of the World Online
Palmweb 2011. Palmweb: Palms of the World Online. Published on the internet Accessed on 21/04/2013
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Global Biodiversity Information Facility
  • B All Rights Reserved
eMonocot. (2010, 1st November). Retrieved Wednesday, 8th February, 2012, from
  • C Content licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License
World Checklist of Selected Plant Families
WCSP 2014. 'World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. Facilitated by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Published on the Internet; Retrieved 2011 onwards
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