Phoenix acaulis Buch. Ham. Palmae.
East Indies and Burma. The astringent fruits are eaten by the Lepchas, who call the tree schap.
Phoenix dactylifera Linn. Date Palm.
Northern Africa and Arabia. In the East, the date tree has ever been the benefactor of mankind. The life of the wandering tribes in the desert circles around the date tree, and the Arabian poets ascribed such high importance to it that they maintain that the noble tree was not formed with other plants but from the clods which remained after the creation of Adam. The native land of the date palm seems to have been originally the region along the east side of the Persian Gulf, whence it has been distributed in the earliest periods of commerce to Arabia, Persia, Hindustan and westward over the whole of north Africa. Hartt mentions a few date palms which bore fruit at Macei, Brazil, and the tree is in gardens in Florida, whence they were probably received from the United States Patent Office about 1860. In 1867, Atwood says numerous, large and beautiful specimens may be seen in the gardens of St. Augustine. Redmond, 1875, says the date is cultivated to a limited extent in south Florida. In the oasis of Siwah, St. John found four kinds cultivated: the Sultani with long, blue fruit; the Farayah, white ones of a kind said not to be grown in Egypt; the Saidi, or common date; and the Weddee, good only for camels and donkeys. Some yellow dates, he says, were much less elongated than others he had seen, with more flesh in comparison to the size of the stone and very luscious. The female flowers of the date are fertilized artificially. In Sind, in Arabia and elsewhere, this is done before the flower-sheaths open; a hole is made in the sheath of the female flower and a few bits of the male panicle are inserted. At Multan, India, Mr. Edgeworth states that there is a date tree which bears a stoneless fruit and that in former times it was considered a royal tree, and the fruits were reserved for royal use. The fruit furnishes, fresh or dried, the staple food of large regions. The large, succulent head cut from among the mass of leaves is also eaten. The sap is sweetish and may be used as a drink or distilled into a kind of spirit.
Phoenix farinifera Roxb.
A dwarf palm common in the country between the Ganges and Cape Comorin. Its exterior, or woody part, consists of white fibers matted together; these envelope a large quantity of farinaceous substance, which the natives use for food in times of scarcity.
Phoenix humilis Royle.
East Indies, Burma and China. The fruit, of a purple-black color, is sweet and is eaten in India.
Phoenix pusilla Gaertn.
East Indies and south China. The shining, black berry has a sweet, mealy pulp.
Phoenix reclinata Jacq.
Tropical and south Africa. The seeds are frequently drawn into use as a substitute for coffee. This species is said by Williams to yield in western Africa a wine; the fruits are said to be much relished by the negro tribes.
Phoenix sylvestris Roxb. Wild Date.
East Indies. In India, the juice is fermented or boiled down into sugar and molasses. A large portion of the sugar made in Bengal, on the Coromandel coast and in Guzerat comes from this source. The fruit is of a very inferior character. The sap is drunk in India, either fresh or fermented, and is called tari.
Sturtevant's Edible Plants of the World, 1919, was edited by U. P. Hedrick.