228 Phoenix reclinataCommon Names: Senegal date palm Family: Arecacea (palm Family)
This beautiful and unusual palm grows in huge clumps that can make a striking statement in the landscape. The Senegal date palm is variable in shape and form but tends to grow as clumps composed of multiple stems reaching 25 ft (7.6m) to 50 ft (15 m) in height. These slender stems are covered with brown fiber and tend to curve away from the center of the clump in graceful arcs. They are topped by crowns of dark green to yellow green pinnate (feather shaped) fronds. The leaves are up to 8-15 ft (2.4-4.5 m) long and about 3 ft (0.9 m) wide and recurve attractively toward the ground. The leaf stem is armored with vicious needles near the trunk.
Male and female flowers are borne on separate plants. Both are borne on 3 ft (0.9 m) branched inflorescences. The fruit, called a date, follows the female flower. It is similar to the dates we buy in the store but is smaller and has less flesh and is mostly seed - they also don't taste very good although they are edible.
Without pruning the tree tends to grow into a tangled mass of stems and leaves (as shown in the picture below). A more attractive specimen can be obtained by removing many of the suckers and trimming away the lower fronds so that the gracefully curving stems can be enjoyed. The Senegal date palm readily hybridizes with the many other species of Phoenix that are found in the landscape. Some of the hybrids have naturally open aspect with fewer suckers - these make the nicest specimens. Other individuals grow in tight masses of stems, foliage and long sharp spines - these make great barrier plants for creating impenetrable hedges.
This tree is native to the semi-arid plains of Senegal, a country in the northeastern part of sub-Saharan Africa. It is now frequently encountered in warm region landscapes everywhere.
CultureLight: Prefers bright, sunny locations. Moisture: Drought tolerant. But looks more attractive and grows faster if periodically watered. Hardiness: USDA Zones 9 - 11. Can handle temperatures to around 25ºF (-3.9 ºC). Propagation: By seed and by division of clumps but this is a real chore.
Use this tree as a dramatic specimen plant for large yards, parks, campuses and other spacious areas. The Senegal palm is particularly impressive displayed against large structures as backdrops where its gracefully curving stems are best appreciated. Makes a great potted specimen for the patio when young. This durable palm also thrives in large containers and other confined areas in urban landscapes.
The Senegal date is inexpensive and easy to find at nurseries and discount stores in the Zones where it is hardy. Compared to other palms this date is a relatively fast grower. Very dramatic effects can be obtained at night by spot lighting the slender trunks and feathery crowns. The Senegal Date palm is salt resistant, it can be used at the beach if set back and somewhat protected.
Several other date palms (genus Phoenix) are grown as ornamentals in warm winter climates. One of the most popular is the pygmy date palm (Phoenix roebelenii) which grows to only about 7 ft (2.1 m) high and is often grown in containers and indoors. The Canary Island date palm (Phoenix canariensis) is famous for it cold hardiness and thick massive trunk. Phoenix dactylifera is the species from which edible dates, like the famous and delicious Medjool dates, are obtained.
Jack Scheper 5/24/98, updated: 7/30/99, 10/10/04, 4/22/11