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Title: Date palm (Phoenix dactylifera)dispersal to the Americas: Historical evidence of the Spanish introduction

item JOHNSON, D - Consultant
item RIVERA, D - Universidad De Murcia
item ALCARAZ, F - Universidad De Murcia
item CARRENO, E - Universidad De Murcia
item DELGADILLO, J - Universidad Autonoma De Baja California
item CARRILLO, M - Universidad Autonoma De Baja California
item OBON, C - Miguel Hernandez University
item Krueger, Robert
item RIOS, S - Universidad De Alicante

Submitted to: Acta Horticulture Proceedings
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 11/20/2011
Publication Date: 6/20/2013
Publication URL:
Citation: Johnson, D.V., Rivera, D., Alcaraz, F., Carreno, E., Delgadillo, J., Carrillo, M.H., Obon, C., Krueger, R., Rios, S. 2013. Date palm (Phoenix dactylifera)dispersal to the Americas: Historical evidence of the Spanish introduction. Acta Horticulture Proceedings. 994:99-104.

Interpretive Summary: This joint paper originates from a shared interest in date palm uses, taxonomy and diversity by the different research entities involved. During the study of the origin and diversity of the palm in Spain and the Americas, we found abundant historical documentation that allows us to construct a detailed historical account of the introduction of date palm (Phoenix dactylifera L) into the Americas. Documentation has also shed some light on the provenance and type of propagules involved. It is indeed fortunate that the Spanish kept such extensive and detailed records of their arrival, exploration and conquest of the New World. This has allowed us to determine that date palm was introduced to the New World directly from Spain as seed and to a lesser extent from North Africa. The date palm apparently arrived to South America (Chile, Peru) before Mexico and Alta California (the 16th century as compared to the 18th century). Commercial importations of offshoots to Alta California occurred in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Cultivation of date palms continues to this day in most of the areas to which they were introduced.

Technical Abstract: Date palm (Phoenix dactylifera) groves are found in the Americas from the south-west USA (36°N lat.) to Chile (21°S lat.) and eastward to the Caribbean Islands; from Venezuela, 63°W long. to 117°W long. (USA) and at elevations from 0-2,000 m. However, successful production of ripe dates is possible only in arid regions of Peru, Chile, Baja California, and south-west USA. At present, the major extant date palm groves of Spanish origin are in Baja California, Mexico and Peru. A study of the origin of the date palms has revealed abundant historical documentation permitting a historical picture of the Spanish introductions to the Americas and the origin of the plant material involved. Dates arrived in the Americas very soon after initial European contact (1492), and in the early 16th century there were date palms in the Caribbean Islands and on the mainland, as evidenced by the chroniclers of the Indies. Date palm plantings were from seeds carried from Spain and North Africa. By about the late 16th century, date palms reached coastal Peru. Date palms were recorded in present-day Baja California, Mexico and California USA from the mid-18th century. Cultivation has continued in Baja California in oases near former Spanish religious missions. Beginning in the late 19th century, date palm offshoots were imported from North Africa and the Middle East and today form the basis of the USA date industry.