Difference Between Male and Female Date Palm Trees

The article discusses how to differentiate between male and female date palm trees. Date palm trees (Phoenix dactylifera) have been grown for centuries for their sweet and nourishing fruits, known as dates. The date palm trees provide the aesthetic beauty of landscapes.

Date palm trees are dioecious, meaning they have separate male and female plants, so you need both male and female date palms to grow fruit. However, some date palms bear both male and female flowers, so only one such palm tree can produce fruit.

The date palm trees can be grown from seeds (how to grow date palm tree from seeds), but how to know that the tree you have grown from seed will be a male date tree or a female date palm tree. How do you tell the difference between a male and female palm tree. The difference becomes clear only when they grow flowers after at least 5 years.

Date Palm Tree
Date Palm Tree

Until the trees develop flowers, you may not know the gender of your date palm tree. The problem is female date palms begin to produce fruit around the age of five, only then they can be distinguished from the male trees.

Recognizing the differences between male and female date palm trees is crucial for successful date cultivation, pollination and harvesting. Here is how you can distinguish between the two:

Identification Based on Seed Shape

An idea of the sex of the tree can be made by the shape of the seeds [1]. The palm seed would grow to a female palm tree if the seed from which it was grown had a curved shape, pointed tips and a generally rough appearance. On the other hand, a straight seed with a generally smooth appearance would grow to a male plant.

Identification Based on Seedling

An early differentiation of young seedlings into males and females could enhance breeding and genetic improvements of the date palm. Following suggestions have been made to predict the male and female trees early at the seedling stage:

difference between male and female date palm trees youtube
How to grow date palm tree from seed youtube

A. Differentiation Based on Seedling Behavior

A. Seedling Emergence

There is a possibility of identifying the seeds by the behavior of the seedlings [1]. For this, germinate the seeds covered in palm leaflets mat. If the first leaf of the seedling passes through the mat and comes out, then the seed will produce a male plant, while if the seedling does not pass through the mat and bend inside, the seed will grow to a female plant.

Identify Male and Female Palm
Identify Male and Female Palm

B. Seed-Seedling Distance

The gender of trees can possibly be predicted based on the distance between the seed and the seedling. The male plant has a small distance between seed and seedling, while the female plant has longer distance.

Date Palm Seed to Seeding Gap. Female seed to seedling distance is larger
Date Palm Seed to Seeding Distance

C. Markers Technique of Identification

Some research has been carried out to differentiate gender based markers like DNA marker technique [2], male-specific sequence-characterized amplified region (SCAR) markers [3] and microsatellite markers [4] to differentiate between male and female date palm trees.

Difference Based on Tree Appearance

Based on the date palm trees appearance, you can get a rough idea of their gender.

Male Palm Tree

Male palm trees have larger and fuller leaves, while female palm trees have smaller and more delicate leaves.

Male vs Female Date Palm Trees: Following are the differences in 80 % of the male and female palm trees:

Female Date Palm Tree

  1. Base of trunk thin. Separated leaf growth.
  2. Less branches. Branches and leaves smaller and delicate.
  3. The tree generally grows taller than male trees.
  4. It has feathery fronds and only a few thorns on fronds.

Male Date Palm Tree

  1. Wider trunk. Leaves grow very closely, crowded leaf growth
  2. Generally shorter and bushier, more branches.
  3. Larger and fuller leaves.
  4. Crowded thorns all along the fronds.

Difference between male and female date Palm Trees.
Male Palm is Wider and Female date Palm is narrower.

Difference between Male and Female date Palm Trees. Thorns on Male Tree, No Thorns on Female tree.
Difference between Male and Female date Palm Trees.
Thorns on Male Tree, No Thorns on Female tree.

Difference Based on Anatomy : Inflorescence Appearance

The primary distinction between male and female date palm trees lies in their reproductive structures.

Male Inflorescence

  1. Male trees produce clusters of small, yellow green flower inflorescences inside spathe.The male spathe becomes softer and changes color from green to brown before splitting.
  2. Male spathe is thicker and longer than those produced by female trees. The spathe typically hangs down from the tree's crown or the axil of the leaves and contain clusters of small, pollen-producing flowers. These flowers contain stamens, which are the male reproductive organs responsible for producing pollen.
  3. The male flowers are singular, white and waxy.
  4. Male trees produce large amounts of pollen to facilitate pollination of female trees. The pollen production is a key characteristic of male date palm trees.
  5. Male trees do not produce edible fruit. Their primary purpose is to provide pollen for female trees to produce fruit.

Male and Female Flower Inflorescences
Male and Female Inflorescences (Flowers)

Female Inflorescence

  1. The female trees bear larger clusters of flowers with pistils, the female reproductive organs.
  2. These clusters are generally larger and more compact, with individual flowers containing the ovaries that will develop into the delicious date fruits.
  3. Female flowers are typically yellowish-green appearance in clusters of three and round, and they develop into the date fruits upon successful pollination. 

This pollen is transported by wind, insects, or human to the female flowers, enabling fertilization and the development of fruits.

Female Date Palm Tree with Fruits Developing
Female Date Palm Tree with Fruits Developing

In date farming, collecting pollen from the male trees and applying it to the female flowers is a common practice to ensure successful pollination.

Differentiation Based on Flower Appearance

Male date palm trees' inflorescences are usually longer and more pendant compared to the female flowers. The male flowers are tightly packed, while the female flowers are more open and rounded. Male inflorescences are also more noticeable due to their vibrant yellow color, whereas female flowers tend to be more inconspicuous due to their green hue.

Identification Based on Location and Timing

Male flowers are generally located toward the top of the tree, while female flowers are closer to the base. Observing the location of flowers on the palm tree is another way to differentiate between male and female date palm trees.

The timing of flower emergence is different on the trees. Male flowers bloom earlier in the season compared to female flowers. This difference in timing of flowering is nature's way of facilitating cross-pollination by ensuring that mature pollen is available when the female flowers become receptive.


1. NigerOumarou Zango, Hervé Rey, Yacoubou Bakasso, René Lecoustre, Frédérique Aberlenc, Jean-Christophe Pintaud, Local Practices and Knowledge Associated with Date Palm Cultivation, Southeastern Agricultural Sciences, Vol.7 No.9, September 2016.
2. Noppharat Intha, Peerasak Chaiprasart, Sex determination in date palm (Phoenix dactylifera L.) by PCR based marker analysis, Scientia Horticulturae, Volume 236, 16 June 2018, Pages 251-255.
4. Khaled Elmeer and Imene Mattat, Marker-assisted sex differentiation in date palm using simple sequence repeats, 3 Biotech. 2012 Sep; 2(3): 241–247.