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A Floridata Plant Profile #226 Phoenix rupicola
Common Names: cliff date, wild date palm, Indian date palm
Family: Arecacea/Palmae (palm Family)
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Palm  Drought Tolerant Can be Grown in Containers Grows Well Indoors. Has Unusual or Interesting Foliage

cliff date
A cliff date palm lends a tropical air to Bayfront Park in St. Petersburg, Florida.
Description
There are many kinds of date palm (Phoenix species are called date palms). The more common date palm is the "true" date palm (and it's many selections like the delicious Medjool date), the massive Canary Island date palm (P. canariensis) and the popular pygmy date palm (Phoenix roebelenii) that is often grown as a houseplant. In addition to these are several other Phoenix species that are just as impressive if not more so. One of these is the cliff date palm (P. rupicola). It's not commonly used in landscapes but has some very nice qualities among which are that it is incredibly graceful and beautiful.

The cliff date palm, growing to only about 20 ft (6.1 m), is smaller than the more commonly planted Canary Island and true date palms. It is a tidier tree with a a neater appearance as the trunk is clean, not retaining the old leaf bases like other date species. As the leaves die they are shed leaving a smooth trunk ringed with narrow scars at the point of attachment.

It is the canopy of fronds that really sets this Phoenix palm apart from the rest. The leaves, which grow to about 10 ft (3.1 m) long are bright green color and are arranged in plane on the stem which gives the fronds a flat appearance that combined with their unique, natural curving, arching and twisting form results in a very graceful palm.

The purplish red fruit is about 0.75 in (1.9 cm) long and has a thin layer of edible flesh although the fruit is not this palm?s best quality.

Location
Phoenix rupicola is native to India where it thrives among the rocks and cliffs in the Himalayan Mountains. Due to its adaptation to this kind of habitat, it tolerates poor, rocky soils.

Culture
Light: This palm prefers sun but can tolerate shade.
Moisture: Cliff date is drought resistant and requires well drained soils.
Hardiness: USDA Zones 10 - 11.
Propagation: Propagation is by seed, which take about 2 or 3 months to germinate.

Usage
The cliff date is a very ornamental palm and therefore is mainly used as an accent or specimen palm in both residential and commercial landscapes in warm climates. This is a very beautiful palm and I hope to see more of them.

Features
The cliff date palm is probably one of the easiest Phoenix species to grow (although less hardy than some of the others). It is not picky as far as light, soil or moisture although it does require good drainage. The other Phoenix species like the edible Medjool date (P. dactylifera) and Canary Island date palm (P. canariensis) are more common and easier to find but the cliff date is definitely worth seeking out to grow or just to enjoy seeing.

Jack Scheper 10/04/99; updated 10/30/04




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