Wild Date Palm, Senegal Date Palm [Phoenix reclinata]
The Wild Date palm has feather-shaped leaves. This evergreen palm does not grow much more than 6m in height and often occurs in dense stands, with one or more curving stems rising above the rest. The bark of the Wild Date Palm is dark brown to dark grey and the leaves are roughly scarred. Leaves are 3-4m long. Feather-like with up to 50 leaflets a side. Basal leaflets are spiny and the others are dark green, smooth and glossy.
Flowers are inflorescence borne in axils of young leaves near the apex of the stem.
Male and female are on separate plants. Male florets are caduceus and pale dirty-yellow. Female florets are small, globose and yellow-green. The fruits are small (2,3x1,4cm) and borne in large, pendant clusters. Fruit pulp is fairly fleshy, yellow when young and brown at maturity with one seed inside.
Where they are found
This species thrives only where a permanent high water-table exists as is the case in the swamp, which accounts for its absence in the dry land areas. The Wild Date Palm, being water-dependant, is often an indication of an earlier permanent water flow in a particular area, even if there is no water visible at the time.
The fruits of the Wild Date Palm are sought after by mammals, birds and humans alike and the heart of the tree is used as a vegetable. In South Africa and Botswana the plants are tapped for sap which is used to make palm wine. This is done prior to flowering of the plant.