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

D. Rivera, D. Johnson, J. Delgadillo, M. H. Carrillo, C. Obón, R. Krueger, F. Alcaraz, S. Ríos, E. Carreño
Genetic resources and crop evolution 2013 v.60 no.4 pp. 1433-1452
Phoenix dactylifera, adventitious shoots, arid zones, coasts, dates (fruit), groves, islands, oases, sea level, seeds, Algeria, Chile, Colombia, Iraq, Mexico, Morocco, Peru, Spain, Tunisia, United States, Venezuela
America’s date palm (Phoenix dactylifera L.) groves can be found from 36°N Lat. (USA) to 21°S Lat. (Chile) and from 63°W Long. (Venezuela) to 117°W Long. (USA), at elevations from sea level to 2,000 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 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.