Phoenix theophrasti

Source: Wouter Hagens

Phoenix theophrasti

Phoenix theophrasti or Cretan date palm is, with Chamaerops humilis, the only native palm in Europe.

Smaller than Phoenix dactylifera, its leaves are greyish blue, more like those of Phoenix canariensis.

Is highly salt tolerant.

Can not be grown as a  house plant due to its spines and prickly leaves, maybe only as a juvenile.


Phoenix theophrasti is a cluster forming palm tree, with a trunk to 17 m high and 50 cm in diameter.

The leaves are 2-4 m long, fibrous leaf sheath, reddish brown, petiole 50-70 cm long, with 65-100 pinnate leaflets on either side of the rachis, rigid, up to 50 cm long and 2 cm wide, gray-green. Petiole wearing long, yellow thorns.

This palm tree is dioecious. The male inflorescences are erect, on a stem up to 40 cm long, with small white, fragrant flowers. The female flowers are erect, slightly overhanging when they bear fruit, up to 50 cm long, yellow-white flowers.

The fruit is oblong, 15 mm long and 10 mm wide, green-yellow to brown, with small, mealy, sweet to sour flesh.

Seeds have rounded tops, up to 13 mm long and 7 mm wide.

Difference with Phoenix dactylifera:

  • The inflorescence and infrutescence are erect (hanging in P. dactylifera).
  • Height is usually not higher than 15 m.
  • The fruit has a thin layer of flesh that can tastes sour and is usually inedible.


Common names:

Cretan date palm, Theophrastus’ date palm


Phoenix: from the Greek phoinix (Greek name for this palm tree)
Theophrasti: in honor of Theophrastus, Greek philosopher and botanist


Crete, southwestern Turkey


Coastal areas, a few meters from the sea or along stream banks and rocky gullies, in sandy or rocky calcareous soils, up to 250 m altitude


USDA zone 8-11, -8 °C
Frost resistance is highly dependent on a very dry soil in winter and fleecing of the leaves is recommended.



Sandy, rocky, very well drained. Highly salt tolerant.




Drought resistant but grows faster when it gets regular watering in summer. In winter, it must be very dry. Stop watering completely in autumn.


In spring and summer, fertilize weekly with a fertilizer with high nitrogen content.


Seed, division

Sowing instructions:

  • soak 1-2 days in lukewarm water
  • sow in moist sowing substrate
  • 20-25 °C
  • germination: a few days to a few weeks