WORLDWIDE DISPERSAL OF THE DATE PALM FROM ITS HOMELAND
Domesticated more than 5,000 years ago in Mesopotamia, present-day Iraq, the date palm (Phoenix dactylifera) is today a major world fruit crop in its original homeland, as well as in a number of other countries where it has been introduced for commercial production. Worldwide, date fruit production stands at about 6.8 million mt per year. Ten countries in the Middle East and North Africa account for 90% of the worlds production. The remainder originates from some two dozen other countries including Australia, Mexico, Namibia, Peru, South Africa, Spain and the USA. In some of these other countries the date palm has not attained significant commercial status. Climatic, biological or economic factors are given as the general reasons for the lack of success, but the precise causes in each location have not been investigated in detail. In most instances, the date palm has become naturalized where it was introduced and has produced new undescribed seed-derived forms. In such circumstances the palms yield fruit for local consumption and are used as ornaments and play a role in the landscape. Over millennia, from Mesopotamia, the date palm has been carried in all directions in an historical process of diaspora that continues today. Where the date palm has been introduced, new local names have often been applied to known cultivars as well as to locally-derived seedling forms. A detailed overview of the dispersal of the date palm does not exist. In some instances, introducing the date palm to new areas provided an environment free of traditional pests and diseases of the palm; in other cases inadvertent pest and disease introductions have occurred along with date offshoots. This study summarizes the current state of knowledge regarding the diaspora of the date palm and identifies key areas where additional information is needed.
Johnson, D.V. (2010). WORLDWIDE DISPERSAL OF THE DATE PALM FROM ITS HOMELAND. Acta Hortic. 882, 369-375
geography, history, introduction, offshoots, Phoenix dactylifera, seeds