Phoenix canariensis
Photo by Flickr user Jenn Deering Davis

Canary Island date palm

Ratings

  • This plant has a Plant Risk Evaluator rating of High Potential Risk
  • This plant has been rated Limited by the California Invasive Plant Council

Description

Canary Island date palm grows 40 to 60 ft. tall and is native to the Canary Islands off the coast of Africa.

It has escaped from landscape plantings via dispersal in water or by birds. Seeds carried by winter rains can be washed into storm drains and then to creeks and rivers.

Phoenix canariensis has escaped cultivation in Sonoma, Glenn, San Luis Obispo, and San Diego counties. It is most common in southern California, where it has invaded stream corridors, orchards, and occasionally, landscaped areas. See CalWeedMapper for its current distribution in California outside of cultivation. At one location in southern California an invasion of P. canariensis and Washingtonia robusta (another Plant to Watch) caused the river to change direction. It is a pest on the San Diego River, and can crowd out native riparian vegetation where it invades.

Why is this plant not included on the invasive plant list?

Phoenix canariensis was included in the 2016 nursery survey, and was found at 15.2% of nurseries. However, we did not add it to the invasive list. Canary Island date palm has a long history in California, and commands a high price for large specimens. Although it has invaded riparian areas in Southern California, it’s not invasive in large geographic areas of the state, and has a Limited rating on the Cal-IPC Inventory, which means it is invasive, but the impact is minor on a statewide level. It’s a plant with cultural and architectural significance, and a lack of readily available alternatives that are as hardy or grow at a similar rate. There’s also a disease killing these palms called fusarium wilt. The disease often spreads when rows of the trees are trimmed at once, transferring the disease from one plant to another. It can also enter through the roots — surviving in soil for at least 25 years. It would take many years to phase this plant out of ornamental use, and it has been cultivated in California for over 120 years. Read the article Palm Reading to learn more about its history in California.