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Phoenix reclinata (Wild date palm)

Wildedadelboom [Afrikaans]; iSundu [Xhosa]; liLala [Swazi]; Mutzhema, Mutshema, Mutshevho [Venda]

Life > eukaryotes > Archaeoplastida > Chloroplastida > Charophyta > Streptophytina > Plantae (land plants) > Tracheophyta (vascular plants) > Euphyllophyta > Lignophyta (woody plants) > Spermatophyta (seed plants) > Angiospermae (flowering plants) > Monocotyledons > Order: Arecales > Family: Arecaceae > Genus: Phoenix

Phoenix reclinata (Wild date palm) Phoenix reclinata (Wild date palm)

Phoenix reclinata in fruit on the Zambian side of Victoria Falls. [photo Helen Pickering , Flora of Zimbabwe]

Phoenix reclinata, Mozambique. [photo John E. Burrows ]

Phoenix reclinata (Wild date palm)

Phoenix reclinata, Victoria Falls National Park, Zimbabwe. [photo Bart Wursten , Flora of Zimbabwe]

This palm is in the same genus as the Date palm and its fruit are similar to the latter except smaller and lacking the thick flesh. It grows to a height of usually 3-6 m although trees can reach 10 m high. It has a very characteristic growth-form with several trunks originating from a common base with the lateral trunks leaning far over but curving upwards terminally.

Distribution and habitat

The native distribution of this species extends from tropical Africa southwards down the east coast of southern Africa to the Bathurst district in the Eastern Cape. Within southern Africa is is native to northern Namibia, northern Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape.  Trees usually grow along river banks in low-lying open grassland (Palgrave and Palgrave 2002).

Ecological interactions


  • Fruit are edible and unsurprisingly taste rather like dates.
  • The sap is tapped by local people to make palm wine. The tapping is usually done from the flower stalk just before flowering commences when sap flow is at its height (Palgrave and Palgrave 2002).
  • Brushes and brooms are made from stem fibres.
  • In Kosi Bay (KwaZulu-Natal), the midribs of leaves are used to make fish kraals.
  • The apices of young stems are eaten.
  • Baskets are made from the leaves.
  • Spines on the base of the leaves are evidently used medicinally (how)?
  • Commonly grown as a garden ornamental tree. For instance there are a number of trees in the Company Gardens in Cape Town and Arderne Gardens in the Cape Town suburb of Claremont.


  • Palgrave, K.C. and Palgrave, M.C. 2002. Trees of Southern Africa. 3rd Edition. Struik Publishers, Cape Town.
  • Palmer, E. and Pitman, N. 1972. Trees of Southern Africa covering all known indigenous species in the Republic of South Africa, South-West Africa, Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland. Volume 1. A.A. Balkema, Cape Town.
  • van Wyk, B. and van Wyk, P. 1997. Field Guide to Trees of Southern Africa. Struik Publishers, Cape Town.

Text by Hamish Robertson

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