The date palm (Phoenix dactylifera) is an ancient species of tree that is the cultural identity of the Middle East, bearing the sweet date fruit that has been a staple of the local diet for millennia. As they are indigenous trees with a beautiful ornamental structure, date palms predominated the majority of landscaping projects until recently. There are multiple varieties of this tree, each with its own unique leaf structure and fruit type, such as Ajwa, Barhi, Medjool and Lulu.
The more popular varieties of the date palm were used in streetscapes and commercial landscaping projects, with rarer types used in private villas. However, once so extensively adopted in local landscaping date palms have become more scarce in recent years, partially due to increased demand but also because of a decrease in date-palm orchards due to depletion of ground water used for irrigation. Most date palms sourced for landscaping projects in the UAE are from local farms in Al Ain, Liwa Oasis; Abu Dhabi and Dhaid; Sharjah.
Acacia LLC, a subsidiary company under the Tanseeq Investment Group of Companies, is currently the leading supplier of ornamental plants for landscaping projects in the GCC. In addition to locally sourced palms, Acacia LLC imports different types of palms around the world including Thailand, Malaysia, Spain and Italy that can be adapted in the GCC.
Date palms are renowned for their distinctive sculpted scales, ﬁbrous trunk and fanned canopy with feather-like pinnate leaves sprouting from the center of the trunk. They are grandiose trees that can reach up to 30 feet in overall height and each leaf can grow to an average of 20 feet in length. As local trees, they are well-adapted to the hot desert climate (but do require plenty of water when fruiting and/or ﬂowering). Date palms are slow growing, taking 5 to 7 years to fully mature which is when the female trees can ﬁnally start bearing fruit.
As the supply of date palms has become more limited, there is a surge in demand for different varieties of palm trees that can ﬂourish in the local climate. Acacia LLC specializes in supplying several species of ornamental palms, each with its own unique set of characteristics to suit different landscape requirements.
Since there are currently no standards available for specifying palms to adapt for their application, Acacia LLC has developed its own set of applied parameters under the guidance of Mr Naser Ahmed, Group CEO of the Tanseeq Investment Group of Companies. These are as follows:
- Type of tree
- Stature of tree
- Texture of trunk
- Leaf structure
The palms are classiﬁed as follows:
- Archontophoenix alexandrae (Alexander palm)
- Roytonea regia (Florida royal palm)
- Wodyetia bifurcate (Foxtail palm)
- Carpentaria acuminate (Carpentaria palm)
- Neodypsis decaryi (Triangle palm)
- Hyphorbe lagenicaulis (Bottle palm)
- Caryota urens (Fishtail palm)
These palms are single-trunk tropical trees native to the California and Florida in the USA, Southern Africa and far Eastern countries like Thailand and Malaysia. They have a tapering trunk that leads to a green shaft characteristic to these species. They generally require plenty of water for optimum growth and are sensitive to heat. The pinnate leaves are long and have a beautifully distinct shape; in fact, the Wodyetia bifurcate is affectionately named the ‘foxtail palm’ for the strong resemblance of its leaves to the tail of the forest creature.
- Livistonia chinensis (Chinese fan palm)
- Bismarckia nobilis (Bismarck palm)
- Prichardia paciﬁca (Fiji fan palm)
- Sabal palmetto (Cabbage palm)
- Washingtonia robusta (Mexican fan palm)
- Washingtonia ﬁlifera (Desert fan palm)
- Copernicia alba (Wax palm)
These palms are elegant trees with a solitary brown trunk extending to short wide foliage with palmate (fan-shaped) leaves. Its compact structure makes it an ideal candidate for most landscaping projects, and all seven species in this category are very popular in the region.
- Phoenix dactylifera (Date palm)
- Phoenix canariensis (Canary Island date palm)
- Phoenix sylvestris (Silver date palm)
- Cocos nucifera (Coconut palm tree)
- Brahea armata (Mexican blue palm)
- Butia capitata (Jelly palm)
These palms are also very popular in the region and resemble the stereotypical palm tree that comes to the minds of most people. The Phoenix dactylifera is the treasured date-palm that is native to the Middle East and North Africa. The Phoenix dactylifera, Phoenix sylvestris, Cocos nucifera and Brahea armata are commonly preferred in local landscaping projects.
- Phoenix reclinate (Wild date palm)
- Paurotis wrightii (Paurotis palm)
These species are multi-branch palms, with all stems growing from a single point in the soil. This is a gorgeous and striking tree that draws the eye. Both species are commonly chosen for courtyards as they are sensitive trees that require protection from wind and sun.
- Caryota mitis (Burmese ﬁshtail palm)
- Chrysalidocarpus lutescens – (Butterﬂy palm)
- Rhapis excelsa (Broadleaf lady palm)
The specialty of these palms is that they naturally grow in clumps. Type-E palms similar to Type-D palms are preferred for selected landscaping projects, like private gardens, since they are sensitive plants that require more care, including a shaded area. Although they do not resemble the traditional palm tree, they are fantastic trees that are highly ornamental. Since they are relatively small, only growing to a maximum height of 6 meters, they are ideal for villas, hotels and residential courtyards.
- Chamaerops humilis (European fan palm)
- Chamaerops cerifera (Blue Mediterranean fan palm)
- Chamaerops excelsa (Chinese windmill palm)
Type – F palms are similar to the Type – E in that they are non-traditional palms and are more sensitive trees requiring additional care and protection. The Chamaerops humilis and the Chamaerops cerifera are hardier outdoor trees but the Chamaerops excelsa requires at least partial shade.
As this article has demonstrated, palms are a very versatile species of accent tree. They are available in a variety of shapes and sizes and can be adapted for all types of landscaping projects, including streetscapes, large corporate projects, residential communities, shopping malls and outdoor recreational developments. Their noble structure and unusual beauty will add tremendous aesthetic value to a landscaping, instantly elevating visitor experience and positively contributing to the popularity of the project.