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Phoenix reclinata - Palmpedia

Phoenix reclinata

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Southern Califonia. Photo by Geoff Stein, edric.
Phoenix (FEH-niks)
reclinata (rek-lin-AH-tah)
Tanzania. Photo by Dr. P. Wilkin, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew/Palmweb.
Scientific Classification
Genus: Phoenix (FEH-niks)
reclinata (rek-lin-AH-tah)
Phoenix abyssinica, Phoenix leonensis, Phoenix pumila, Phoenix spinosa
Native Continent
Habit: Clustering
Leaf type: Pinnate
Height: 30-50ft
Trunk diameter: 4-7in
Sun exposure: Full
Watering: Regular
Soil type: Non-acidic/ non-alkaline
Survivability index
Common names
Senegal date palm, wild date palm

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Habitat and distribution

Angola, Benin, Bermuda, Botswana, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Provinces, Caprivi Strip, Central African Republic, Comoros, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Florida, Gabon, Gambia, The, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Kenya, KwaZulu-Natal, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Northern Provinces, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Yemen, Zaire, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Phoenix reclinata occurs throughout tropical and subtropical Africa, northern and southwestern Madagascar and the Comoro Islands. Phoenix reclinata is a widely distributed species growing in a range of habitats, often seasonally water-logged or inundated, such as along watercourses, in high rainfall areas, in riverine forest, and even in rainforest areas (although always restricted to areas of sparse canopy). The species can also be found in drier conditions on rocky hillsides, cliffs and grasslands to 3000 m. The fruits of P. reclinata are animal-dispersed: their bright orange colour and sweet, slightly fleshy mesocarp is attractive to birds (parrots) (Schonland 1924), elephants (Corner 1966), lemurs (Petter et al. 1977), mangabey (forest monkeys) (Kinnaird 1992) and humans. (S.C. Barrow. 1998)/Palmweb.

These palms are native to tropical Africa, Madagascar, and the Comoro Islands, where they are found from sea level to 3000 m, in rain forest clearings, monsoonal forests and rocky mountainsides. They are commonly cultivated in many countries with temperate weather where they freely hybridize with other cultivated Phoenix species.


P. reclinata is a dioecious clustering palm, producing multiple stems from 7.5 to 15 m (22 to 45 feet) in height and 30 cm (12") in width. Leaves are pinnate with a prounced sideways curve, growing 2.5 to 4.5 m 7.5 to 14 feet) in length and 75 cm (30") in width. Leaf color is bright to deep green on 30 cm (12") petioles with long, sharp spines at the base, with 20 to 40 leaves per crown. This species grows edible, oblong fruit, orange in color (when ripe), at 2.5 cm (1") in diameter. While able to tolerate some drought, they are not as drought-tolerant as some of their co-generic cousins, including P. canariensis or dactylifera. They are also tolerant of moderate salt-spray.

Clustering palm, often thicket-forming. Stem 10 (12) m, erect or oblique, without leaf sheaths to 20 cm in diam., dull brown, with persistent leaf sheaths 1 - 2 m below crown, otherwise becoming smooth, irregularly marked with oblique internode scars, cracked vertically; injured stem exuding clear yellowish gum. Leaves arcuate, about 2 - 3.5 m long; leaf sheath fibrous, reddish-brown; pseudopetiole rounded abaxially, smooth, often channelled adaxially, to 50 cm long; acanthophylls irregularly arranged, often congested proximally, about 10 - 15 on each side of rachis, 3 - 9 cm long; leaflets regularly arranged distally in one plane of orientation but median and proximal leaflets in fascicles of 3 - 5 and often fanned, about 80 - 130 on each side of rachis, 28 - 45 x 2.2- 3.6 cm; leaflet margin minutely crenulate; lamina concolorous, abaxial surface with white scurfy ramenta in midrib region. Staminate inflorescence erect; prophyll green-yellow in bud, strongly 2-keeled, coriaceous, splitting 1 or 2 times between margins, 40 - 60 x 5 - 6 cm; peduncle 10 - 30 x 1.3 cm, not greatly elongating beyond prophyll; rachis 17 - 30 cm; rachillae congestedly arranged in a narrow bush, numerous, 6 - 20 cm long. Staminate flowers creamy-white; calyx cupule 1 mm high; petals with apex acute-acuminate in shape and with jagged margins, 3 (rarely 4), 6 - 7 x 2 - 3 mm. Pistillate inflorescence erect, arching with weight of fruits; prophyll as for staminate inflorescence; peduncle green-yellow turning orange-brown, becoming pendulous on fruit maturity, to 60 - 1.5 cm; rachillae spirally arranged often in irregular horizontal whorls, about 19 - 40 in number, to 6 - 55 cm long. Pistillate flowers usually only one carpel reaching maturity, 3 - 4 mm high. Fruit ovoid-ellipsoid or almost obovoid, ripening yellow to bright orange, 13 - 20 x 7 - 13 mm; mesocarp sweet, scarcely fleshy, about 1 - 2 mm thick. Seed obovoid, with rounded apices, 12 - 14 x 5 - 6 mm; embryo lateral opposite raphe; endosperm homogeneous. (S.C. Barrow. 1998)/Palmweb. Editing by edric.

The vegetative polymorphism of P. reclinata, which perhaps relates to ecological variation, has led to recognition of certain extreme phenotypes as distinct species or varieties (e.g., Chevalier 1952). This variation is such that delimitation of infraspecific taxa cannot be upheld by discrete characters. (S.C. Barrow. 1998)/Palmweb.


USDA hardiness zones: 9B through 11

Comments and Curiosities

Etymology: Phoenix reclinata or Senegal Date Palm is a palm species; the name is from Latin for "reclining".

Uses: All parts of P. reclinata palms are used for a range of purposes. Trunks are used as beams and poles in construction. Whole leaves are used as door entrances and covers, or fans for stoking fires and repelling insects. The leaf rachis is used for making thatch, floor mats and fish traps. It also forms a component of wattle for the construction of mud houses. Leaflets from sucker shoots are harvested for making baskets, hats, brushes, building ties, woven dolls and ornaments. The fruits are eaten as a snack and the seeds can be dried and ground into flour (Sierra Leone, Deighton 2397, K!). The palm heart is occasionally eaten as a vegetable. The sap is fermented into an alcoholic beverage and has been recorded as a remedy against urinary infections [Lake Prov., Tanner 5845 (K!)]. For a detailed study of the uses of P. reclinata in Tanzania see Kinnaird (1992). (S.C. Barrow. 1998)/Palmweb.

Common Name: KENYA. mkindu (Swahili), gonyoorriya (Boni), meti (Digo), gedo (Ilwana), makindu (Kikuyu), sosiyot (Kipsigis), othith (Luo), ol-tukai (Maasai), konchor (Orma), itikindu (Sanya), alol (Somali), mhongana (Taveta), kigangatehi (Taita), nakadoki (Turkana), [Beentje (1994)]; mangatche [Kilimanjaro Distr., Greenway 3037 (K!)]. MADAGASCAR. Dara, taratra, taratsy, [Jumelle & Perrier (1913, 1945) ]; calalou, [Morondava, Greve 154 (P!) ]. NIGERIA. Kajinjiri, dabino biri (Hausa), [Northern Prov., Zaria, Conservator ofForests s.n. (K!)]; deli (Fulani), kabba (Hausa), [Mambila Plateau, Hepper 1705 (K!)]. RWANDA. Umukindo, [Troupin (1987)]. SIERRA LEONE. Shaka-Le (Sherbro), kundi (Mende), [Bonthe Is., Deighton 2397 (K!)]. SOUTrH AFRICA. Dikindu, makindu (Mbukushu), makerewa, shikerewa (Diriko), [Okavanga, De Winter & Wiss 4800 (K!)]. TANZANIA. Daro, taratra, mkindwi (Swahili), [Lamu Distr., Dransfield 4799 (K!)]; Luchingu (Fipa), [Mbugwe, Bullock 3074 (K!)]; kihangaga (Urukindu), [Lake Prov., Tanner 5845 (K!)]. UGANDA. Itchi (Madi), lukindu (Luganda, Lunyoro), musansa (Luganda, Busoga dialect), [Eggeling (1940)]; Wild Date Palm, enkinu (Luamba), emusogot (Ateso), ekingol (Karamojong), lukindu, mukindu (Luganda, Lunyoro, Lutoro), makendu (Lugisu), muyiti (Lugwe), otit (Luo. Acholi and Lango dialects), tit (Luo, Lango and Jonam dialects), itchi (Madi), kikindu (Lunyuli), lusansa (Lusoga), [Hamilton (1981)]. (S.C. Barrow. 1998)/Palmweb.

"I have never seen a "true" phoenix reclinata in cultivation, or at least the same kind of phoenix species as in the habitat. In their habitat in northern South Africa, they tend to have very dark lightly fiberous stems around 5 to 6 inches in diameter and very dark green leaves, and never higher than 20 feet, and in the North, like in Malawi they tend to have stems up to a foot thick and lighter leaves and growing up to 40 feet tall." (Kyle Wicomb), edric.

"This palm is one of the more highly sought after specimen palms used in landscaping throughout California, Texas, Arizona, Florida etc... it makes a very tropical looking clump of tall, feather-leaved palms that are somewhat reminiscent of a group of coconut palms (which, unfortunately, don't grow in most of those places). It is cold hardy down to about 22F, and colder temps can sometimes burn it to the ground, only to have suckers come back the following spring. Here in So Cal cold never touches this palm and it is very commonly planted. However large specimens cost up to 10s of thousands of dollars and require a crane and many assistants to move about. They are also spiny palms, each leaf base starting with viciously narrow, strong barbs, that turn into leaves farther from the base. It suckers so profusely that it is constant need of pruning or else you end up with a dense, impenitrable mass of leaves, trunks and spines. The dates, unfortunately, are not edible (to us... squirrels like them). Like all Phoenix palms, this one hybridizes readily, and many hybirds are growing all over California and Florida. The problem is actually to keep them from hybirdizing- there is no guarantee when you get one from a nursery it will be a non-hybrid." (Geoff Stein}, edric.

External Links


Phonetic spelling of Latin names by edric.

Special thanks to Geoff Stein, (Palmbob) for his hundreds of photos, edric.

Special thanks to Palmweb.org, Dr. John Dransfield, Dr. Bill Baker & team, for their volumes of information and photos, edric.

Glossary of Palm Terms; Based on the glossary in Dransfield, J., N.W. Uhl, C.B. Asmussen-Lange, W.J. Baker, M.M. Harley & C.E. Lewis. 2008. Genera Palmarum - Evolution and Classification of the Palms. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. All images copyright of the artists and photographers (see images for credits).

S.C. Barrow, A Monograph of Phoenix L. (Palmae: Coryphoideae). A Monograph of Phoenix L. (Palmae: Coryphoideae). Kew Bulletin, Vol. 53, No. 3 (1998), pp. 513-575.

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