The Palm Tree of
In the Municipal District of Elche there is the greatest concentration
of palm trees in all of Europe: according to estimations, there are
between 200,000 and 300,000 specimens.
It is fairly unanimous that the origin of this palm tree is Phoenician,
which brings us to the conclusion that the existence of the date palm
tree dates back about 2,000/5,000 years.
Also, the division and sorting of land, irrigation and cultivation of
the palm tree, dates back to the times of Arabic reign.
The agricultural city that once was Elche in the previous centuries to
its current industrial activity included the cultivation of dates and
palm trees along with horticultural products for local consumption.
There are palm trees scattered all over the landscape. The peculiarity
and beauty of the palm tree landscape in Elche was made into a one of a
kind natural park in the European continent, which made it a deserved
winner in November 2000 of the distinction of a UNESCO World Heritage
The tree of life
Authentic princes of the Vegetable Kingdom (so called by Linnaeus), the
family of the palm trees (Arecaceae) is made up of 2,800 different
species that are spread over the whole tropical and subtropical area of
The palm tree is one of man’s most practical plants providing: dates,
coconuts, flour, oil, honey or alcohol and wine, the domestic use of the
plant tissue of the palm tree…
The date palm (Phoenix Dactylifera) is one of man’s oldest domesticated
plants. Egyptian carvings over 5,500 years old show that at that time
the harvesting of the date had already begun.
The biological structures of palm trees are conserved in such a simple
way that they are lacking in such common elements in a vegetable like
flowers with its petals or a real tree trunk with branches. Its trunk or
“stipe” is not like this, it is a false trunk that is formed by a group
of remains of bases of old leaves or “Fronds,” that intertwine forming a
structure in the shape of a column. This false trunk can only grow in
height and not in width.
The sap of the palm trees does not circulate the circumference of the
tree trunk but rather its central area or medulla. This peculiarity
makes them fire resistant. They are able to sprout new shoots from their
ashes, from which is probably the origin of their generic name “Phoenix.”
This trunk is crowned by a crest of leaves that grow in a spiral in the
form of a crown or a head made up of up to 40 leaves more than 3 metres
in length. The palm tree suggests its approximate age by the height that
its stipe reaches (it takes more or less 10 years to develop every metre
of tree trunk).
Palm trees do not possess a main root but they do have some small
rootlets that grow like human hair from a bulb at the base of the tree
There are both male and female palm trees. Only the female palm trees
produce dates, while the male trees are in charge of the pollination of
the female trees with the use of the wind, in a manual way (process
known in Elche as “entaconado”).
The date, fruit of this palm tree, is a berry, cylindrical in shape or
egg-shaped with a very thin skin weighing about 7 grammes of which 2
grammes are the bone. It has a high level of sugars (almost 70%) and a
high nutritional as well as energetic value (30 calories per date). An
old Arabic aphorism says that a good Tuareg warrior is able to live 3
days in the dessert with just one date in his pouch. The first day he
will eat its meat, the second day its skin and the third day he will eat
its grinded bone.