Phoenix of the Forest

One of the most conspicuous trees.. Wild Date Palm (Phoenix Sylvestris/खजुर, शिंदी) is a graceful tree with attractive crown. It is a fast growing palm that can get up to 40-50ft tall. It has a solitary robust trunk, with interesting diamond pattern created by leaf scars.

It is one of the most popular palm trees in the world. And its beauty proves why! Without crown-shaft 90-100 large pinnate, feather-shaped, leaves emerge at the top of the trunk. Leaves are about 10-15ft long, blue-green color, slightly curved, with 100-120 sharply pointed at the end leaflets. This spectacular palm is often used throughout luxury homes, renowned golf courses or for avenue planting. It is also known as Sugar Date Palm, Indian Date Palm & Silver Date Palm.

The meaning of botanical name of the tree is 'Phoenix of the Forest'. I don't know why it is chosen. But possibly because of the hardy nature of the tree. It is tolerant of drought, frost and is hardly attacked by pests. Furthermore, it is widely adaptable to variety of soils. It can even tolerate moderate salty soil. Not only that, it also shelters number of birds. It is one of the favourite tree as a nesting site by Baya Weaver bird. This palm is easy to grow and can promisingly grown from seeds. Before sowing, 12 hour cold water soaking speeds up the germination.

The Wild Date Palm produces small white flowers supported by 2-3ft long branching inflorescence coming from among the leaves. The tree is dioecious, male and female flowers are born on different plants. Flowers are followed by oval, single seeded fruits, turning purple-black when ripe. Fruits are editable and have sweet taste.

Other parts of the tree have their uses. Sleeping mats are woven from the leaves and baskets from the leaf-stalks; these are also twisted into ropes used, among other things, for drawing water from wells. The leaves can also be used as roughage. The tree is valued for its sap, which is extracted and distilled into a potent spirit.

The palm has numerous medicinal properties. The fruit is cooling, oleaginous, cardiotonic, fattening, constipative, good in heart complaints, abdominal complaints, fevers, vomiting and loss of consciousness. It is also used in the cure for gonorrhea. The juice obtained from the tree is considered to be a cooling beverage. The plants growing in the plains yield a good amount of juice which is used for making toddy and jaggery. The juice, as such, can also be drunk.

The tree can be a agroforestry species as it provides a good fodder for cattle and is believed to increase the fat content of milk. It is an ornamental tree and can also be used as an avenue plant. Though it is one of the first fruit trees to be cultivated, nowadays its often neglected.