PNG images: Date

Phoenix dactylifera, commonly known as date or date palm, is a flowering plant species in the palm family, Arecaceae, cultivated for its edible sweet fruit. Although its place of origin is unknown because of long cultivation, it probably originated from lands around Iraq. The species is widely cultivated and is naturalised in many tropical and subtropical regions worldwide.

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Date trees typically reach about 21–23 metres in height, growing singly or forming a clump with several stems from a single root system. The leaves are 4–6 metres long, with spines on the petiole, and pinnate, with about 150 leaflets. The leaflets are 30 cm long and 2 cm wide. The full span of the crown ranges from 6–10 m.

Dates have been a staple food of the Middle East and the Indus Valley for thousands of years. There is archaeological evidence of date cultivation in eastern Arabia between 5530 and 5320 BC. They are believed to have originated around what is now Iraq, and have been cultivated since ancient times from Mesopotamia to prehistoric Egypt. The Ancient Egyptians used the fruits to make date wine, and ate them at harvest.

There is also archeological evidence of date cultivation in Mehrgarh around 7000 BCE, a Neolithic civilisation in what is now western Pakistan. Evidence of cultivation is continually found throughout later civilizations in the Indus Valley, including the Harappan period 2600 to 1900 BCE.

In later times, traders spread dates around South West Asia, northern Africa, and Spain. Dates were introduced into Mexico and California by the Spaniards in 1765, around Mission San Ignacio.

A date palm cultivar, known as Judean date palm, is renowned for its long-lived orthodox seed, which successfully sprouted after accidental storage for 2000 years. This particular seed is presently reputed to be the oldest viable seed, but the upper survival time limit of properly stored seeds remains unknown.

Fossil records show that the date palm has existed for at least 50 million years.

The fruit is known as a date. The fruit's English name (through Old French), as well as the Latin species name dactylifera, both come from the Greek word for "finger", dáktulos, because of the fruit's elongated shape. Dates are oval-cylindrical, 3–7 cm (1.2–2.8 in) long, and 2–3 cm (0.79–1.18 in) diameter, and when ripe, range from bright red to bright yellow in colour, depending on variety. Dates contain a single stone about 2–2.5 cm (0.8–1.0 in) long and 6–8 mm (0.2–0.3 in) thick. Three main cultivar groups of date exist: soft (e.g. 'Barhee', 'Halawy', 'Khadrawy', 'Medjool'), semi-dry (e.g. 'Dayri', 'Deglet Noor', 'Zahdi'), and dry (e.g. 'Thoory'). The type of fruit depends on the glucose, fructose, and sucrose content.

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