Date palm, (Phoenix dactylifera), tree of the palm family (Arecaceae) cultivated for its sweet edible fruits. The date palm has been prized from remotest antiquity and may have originated in what is now Iraq. The fruit has been the staple food and chief source of wealth in the irrigable deserts of North Africa and the Middle East. Spanish missionaries carried the tree to the New World in the 18th and early 19th centuries. Date palms are grown in the Canary Islands, northern Africa, the Middle East, Pakistan, India, Mexico, and the U.S. state of California.