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Title: Historical evidence of the Spanish introduction of date palm (Phoenix dactylifera L., Arecaceae) into the Americas

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

Submitted to: Genetics
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 11/6/2012
Publication Date: 12/18/2012
Publication URL:
Citation: Rivera, D., Johnaon, D., Delgadillo, J., Carrillo, M.H., Obon, C., Krueger, R., Alcaraz, F., Rios, S., Carreno, E. 2012. Historical evidence of the Spanish introduction of date palm (Phoenix dactylifera L., Arecaceae) into the Americas. Genetics. 60:1433-1452.

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: America’s date palm (Phoenix dactylifera L.) groves can be found from 36o N Lat. (USA) to 21o S Lat. (Chile) and from 63o W Long. (Venezuela) to 117o W Long. (USA), at elevations from sea level 2000 m (Colombia). However, successful production of ripe dates is possible only in the arid regions of Peru, Chile, Baja California (Mexico) and the southwestern USA. At present, the major extant palm groves of Spanish origin in the Americas are situated in Baja California, Mexico and Peru. A study of the origin and diversity of the date palms of Spain and the Americas revealed abundant historical documentation permitting a historical picture of the introduction of date palm to the Americas. It can also shed light on the areas of origin of the plant material involved. Dates arrived in the Americas very soon after European contact (1492), and in the early sixteenth century there were numerous date palms on the islands of the Caribbean and on the mainland, as evidenced by the chroniclers of the Indies. Date palm tree plantings were from seeds carried from Spain. Date palms reached the coasts of Peru and Chile in the late sixteenth century, and in some places still produce edible dates. The date palm appears to have come later to California and Baja California, from the beginnings of the eighteenth century, and its cultivation was established and has continued in Baja California (Mexico) in oases near former Jesuit missions. Spain and the Barbary Coast (Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia) were the places of origin of seeds for the Americas; beginning in the late nineteenth century offshoots were introduced from Iraq and North African countries directly to the Americas, especially the USA.