American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
- n. A palm tree (Phoenix dactylifera) of western Asia and northern Africa and cultivated also in California, having featherlike leaves and bearing clusters of dates.
Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
- n. The common name of Phœnix dactylifera, the palm-tree of Scripture: also called date-tree. Next to the cocoanuttree, the date is unquestionably the most interesting and useful of the palm tribe. As with the cocoanut-tree, nearly every part is applied to some useful purpose, and the fruit not only affords the principal food of the inhabitants of various countries, but is a source of a large part of their traffic. It is cultivated in immense numbers all over the northern part of Africa as well as in south-western Asia, and is found through southern Europe, though rarely productive there. Its stem shoots up to the height of from 60 to 80 feet, without branch or division, and is of nearly the same thickness throughout its length. From the summit it throws out a magnificent crown of large feather-shaped leaves, and a number of spadices, each of which in the female plant bears a bunch of from 180 to 200 dates, each bunch weighing from 20 to 25 pounds. The fruit is eaten fresh or dried. The best dates of commerce are obtained from the coasts of the Persian gulf, where the tree is cultivated with great care, and where over 100 varieties are known. The datepalm was probably originally derived from the wild datepalm, P. sylvestris, which is found throughout India, and is planted very extensively in Bengal, chiefly for the production of toddy and sugar. See
- n. The date-palm, introduced by the Mission Fathers and by American pioneers, has long existed in California, but in inferior seedling varieties. Good varieties have recently been introduced by the United States Government under auspices promising commercial success over limited areas in Arizona and California. The date-palm, to mature fruit, requires long-continued heat and dry air above, with an abundance of water at the roots, and is thus suited to hot deserts reclaimed by irrigation. It will bear alkali in the soil and will endure more frost than the orange, but less than the peach. It is diœcious and in culture is usually pollinated artificially, one male tree sufficing for a hundred female. The varieties do not breed true by seed and are propagated by the suckers or offshoots put forth from the base of young trees. The tree dies if the terminal bud is destroyed. The plantations in the Sahara form a shelter for many-fruit-trees which could not otherwise be grown. The fruits as grown by the Arabs are of three principal types, viz. soft dates (those known to the American market), which are very sugary; similar dates, but with a much lower sugar-content, usually eaten fresh from the tree; and dry dates, which are not at all sticky, are picked up as they fall, and are regarded by the Arabs as much better for food than the soft dates. One of the best of in-numerable named varieties is the deglet tutor. Some good seedling varieties have been developed in the south-western United States.
GNU Webster's 1913
- n. (Bot.) the genus of palms which bear dates, of which common species is Phœnix dactylifera. See
- n. tall tropical feather palm tree native to Syria bearing sweet edible fruit
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