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Phoenix sylvestris, Wild Date Palm

Robert J. Northrop, Michael G. Andreu, Melissa H. Friedman, Mary McKenzie, and Heather V. Quintana


Arecaceae, palm family.


Phoenix is the Latin term for the Greek word that means "date palm."


The species name sylvestris translates from the Latin term for "of the forest."

Common Names

Wild Date Palm, Toddy Palm, Sugar Date Palm, Silver Date Palm

This palm produces edible fruits but it is generally called "wild date palm" to distinguish it from the closely related Phoenix dactylifera, which is known as "date palm" and is cultivated agriculturally as the commercial source of edible dates. This palm is a major source of sugar in India, and the sap is sometimes fermented into a drink called a "toddy," which explains the names "sugar date palm" and "toddy palm." The common name "silver date palm" probably refers to the silvery green foliage.


This palm is native to India and southern portions of Pakistan. In both countries, it occurs in areas where there is sparse vegetation mainly composed of scrub species and along flat lands where monsoons occur. Though slow growing, it can reach heights of up to 50 feet and grows well in areas of the United States where temperatures do not fall below 15°F. Leaves are pinnately compound and blue-green, and they can grow to 10 feet in length. Leaflets can reach approximately 18 inches long and grow opposite to one another on the rachis in such a way that the entire leaf looks flat. The petiole, or stem that attaches the leaf to the trunk, is 3 feet long and armed with spines. Young trunks bear triangular shaped leaf scars (the place where leaves once attached to the trunk) that become more diamond-shaped with age. On older trees, aerial roots tend to be present at the base of the trunk. Yellow inflorescences can reach lengths of 3 feet, are heavily branched, bear small white blossoms, and grow among the leaves. The oblong fruits are 1 inch long and occur in orange clusters, turning dark red to purple when mature.

Figure 1. Specimens of Phoenix sylvestris growing wild in India.
Figure 1.  Specimens of Phoenix sylvestris growing wild in India.
Credit: Dinesh Valke, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0


Figure 2. Immature fruits of Phoenix sylvestris hanging in clusters. Note the spines on the petioles of the leaves.
Figure 2.  Immature fruits of Phoenix sylvestris hanging in clusters. Note the spines on the petioles of the leaves.
Credit: Hari Prasad Nadig, CC BY-SA 2.0



Each individual tree is either a male or a female (as is true for all species within this genus). Male trees are extremely allergenic because their pollen is air-borne, whereas female palms cause minimal to no allergies.



In India, sugar and alcohol are made from wild date palm flowers and jelly is made from the fruit.


The wild date palm is an attractive landscape specimen with its blue-green leaves, textured trunk, and yellow inflorescences. The canopy of this palm is dense, exhibits a round shape, and can provide light shade. This palm will thrive and show the best growth when it is planted in direct sunlight. Wild date palm is drought tolerant and prefers well-drained sandy soils, but it grows better when regularly watered. This species is susceptible to lethal yellowing disease (, so it is best to avoid planting wild date palm where the disease is known to be present.


Borror, D. J. 1988. Dictionary of root words and combining forms (2nd ed.). Mountain View, CA: Mayfield Publishing Company.

Coombes, A. 1994. Dictionary of plant names: Botanical names and their common name equivalents. Portland, OR: Timber Press. 2004. Phoenix dactylifera, Retrieved from

Harrison, N. A. and M. L. Elliot. 2009. Lethal yellowing (LY) of palm (PP146). Gainesville, FL: UF-IFAS Florida Cooperative Extension Service. Retrieved from

Meerow, A. W. 2004. Betrock's guide to landscape palms (9th ed.). Hollywood, FL: Betrock Information Systems.

Ogren, T. L. 2000. Allergy-free gardening: The revolutionary guide to healthy landscaping. Berkeley, CA: Ten Speed Press.

Riffle, R. L. and P. Craft. 2003. An encyclopedia of cultivated palms. Portland, OR: Timber Press, Inc.

Publication #FOR 246

Release Date:February 17, 2022

Related Experts

Friedman, Melissa H


University of Florida

Andreu, Michael G.


University of Florida

Northrop, Robert J

County agent

University of Florida

Fact Sheet

About this Publication

This document is FOR 246, one of a series of the School of Forest, Fisheries, and Geomatics Sciences, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date May 2010. Reviewed February 2022. Visit the EDIS website at for the currently supported version of this publication.

About the Authors

Robert J. Northrop, Extension forester, UF/IFAS Extension Hillsborough County; Michael G. Andreu, associate professor of forest systems, School of Forest, Fisheries, and Geomatics Sciences; Melissa H. Friedman, former biological scientist, SFFGS; Mary McKenzie, former research assistant, SFFGS; and Heather V. Quintana, former research assistant, SFFGS; UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.


  • Michael Andreu