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Monday, July 22, 2013

Date Palm Not Producing Fruit

Q.  I have a 5-year-old date palm that this year for the first time had a wonderful display of fruit. It is a Medjool date palm that I grew from seed. The fruits are at least 1.5 in long and round. But now they are falling off in great numbers. I thought that birds were on them thinking they were grapes which I have nearby. But I have covered the Medjool dates with cloth and still they are all almost gone. Another date palm nearby, a Deglet Noor (8 years old) has a great fruit set but just very few drops. Could it be that my Medjool has not been pollenized?

Flower spikes coming from Canary Island Date Palm

A. Exactly right. The fruits dropping have not been pollinated. No, or poor pollination, can happen for a number of reasons but I am guessing the reason in this case is because there was no male pollinator in the area with open flowers.

            I wish it was easier but what can you can do, outside of planting a male Medjool palm, is create a source of pollen for your female tree and hand pollinate the female flower cluster when they open.

            You will have to find a male Medjool date palm (flowers will be produced at the same time as the female Medjool but not produce any fruit at all) that is low enough to the ground for you to reach.

Flowers not yest open on CI date palm
            When the male tree is producing its floral spike next early summer and near flowering, prune several spikes out and put them in a clean bucket of water. Move the bucket close to the base of your palm and let the flowers open. Replace the water daily with clean water.

            When the flowers are open, shake the male flower spike and flowers pretty hard against the female spike attached to the tree. Replace the male flower spike in the bucket of water and repeat over the next couple of days as more and more flowers open.  
            Alternatively, you can tie the male flower spike to the female flower spike and cover with a bag. Beat the bag pretty hard and leave the bag in place for a couple of days and then remove.

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