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It’s a Boy!

January 22, 2011

Three years ago I bought some fresh dates (Phoenix dactylifera, Arecaceae), and just for fun I pushed down a seed in the sand of Dokmai Garden’s ‘African desert’, where we also grow the desert rose (Adenium obesum, Apocynaceae) and watermelon (Citrullus lanatus, Cucurbitaceae). To my great surprise the seed germinated, and yesterday I took a picture of its first flowers! Date palms have male and female trees, and you need one of each to get date fruits. Our specimen turned out to be a boy!

In commercial orchards in North Africa, most growers keep about one percent male trees, to maximize the crop. With such low numbers of male trees, hand pollination is necessary. The ratio in nature is about 50-50, and the flowers are wind pollinated. Since this is the time for blossom in Thailand, I shall search the markets for a cute girlfriend.

The ‘African desert’ where we grow the date palm is just a one meter deep pit with gravel stones in the bottom, and then filled with sand. We never actively water this area, although sometimes the sprinkler for the nearby lawn may contribute a bit. The area gets very wet in the wet season, but due to the swift drainage the plants have survived. What happens when the tree gets older remains to find out.

Eric Danell

(PS We have a name for that mysterious weed discussed on January 16)

Each flower of a date palm has three petals.

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