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Phoenix theophrastii, the Cretan Date Palm, is a palm native to the eastern Mediterranean, with a very restricted distribution, confined in southern Greece, some places in Turkey coast and a few sites on Crete, and other islands.


Phoenix theophrastii grows up to 15 m tall, usually with several slender stems. The leaves are pinnate, 2-3 m long, with numerous rigid greyish-green linear leaflets 15-50 cm long on each side of the central rachis. The fruit is an oval yellowish-brown drupe 1.5 cm long and 1 cm diameter and containing a single large seed; the fruit pulp is too thin and fibrous to be of agricultural significance and has an acrid taste though the fruits are sometimes eaten by the locals.

Sites on Crete include Vai in the Lasithi Prefecture, Ayios Nikitas in Heraklion Prefecture, and Preveli gorge and Souda near Plakias, both on the south coasts of Crete in Rethymnon Prefecture. Trees are also found on Amorgos island, and the south coast of Anafi island. Recently, around 10 trees, the only natural stand on the mainland, were found in an ancient palm forest in the Epidaurus area in Peloponnese. It has been proposed that, in Ancient Greece, there were many more, growing from Crete to Thebes, and from the Peloponnese to Delos. There are also some small stands in southwest Turkey, especially on the Datça and Bodrum Peninsulas in Muğla Province. Areas forested with Phoenix theophrasti constitute Europe’s only palm forests.

The date palm Theophrastus makes more elongated fruit. The climate is characterized by warm to hot, dry summers and mild wet winters. Mostly in coastal rocky waste lands. Most populations have suffered severe deforestation. Habit much less fertile soils than they should be abandoned of agricultural use, and are easily eroding in leaching process, which prevents the accumulation of nutrients in the soil. The agricultural try to use the forest, especially to be allocated to cash crops and agriculture, and have left soil exhaustion.


Written on February 20th, 2012 , Botany, Forestry Tags:

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