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Phoenix dactylifera, commonly known as date or date palm,[2] is a flowering plant species in the palm family, Arecaceae, cultivated for its edible sweet fruit. Although its exact place of origin is uncertain because of long cultivation, it probably originated from the Fertile Crescent region straddling between Egypt and Mesopotamia.[3] The species is widely cultivated across Northern Africa, the Middle East, the Horn of Africa and South Asia, and is naturalized in many tropical and subtropical regions worldwide.[4][5][6] P. dactylifera is the type species of genus Phoenix, which contains 12–19 species of wild date palms, and is the major source of commercial production. Date trees typically reach about 21–23 metres (69–75 ft) in height,[7] growing singly or forming a clump with several stems from a single root system. Date fruits (dates) are oval-cylindrical, 3 to 7 centimetres (1.2 to 2.8 in) long, and about 2.5 centimetres (0.98 in) in diameter, ranging from bright red to bright yellow in colour, depending on variety. They are very sweet, containing about 75 percent of sugar when dried. Dates have been a staple food of the Middle East and the Indus Valley for thousands of years. There is archaeological evidence of date cultivation in Arabia from the 6th millennium BCE. The total annual world production of dates amounts to 8.5 million metric tons, countries of the Middle East and North Africa being the largest producers. Dates have been a staple food of the Middle East and the Indus Valley for thousands of years. They are believed to have originated around what is now Iraq.[citation needed] There is archaeological evidence of date cultivation in Mehrgarh around 7000 BCE, a Neolithic civilization in what is now western Pakistan,[13] and in eastern Arabia between 5530 and 5320 calBC.[14] and have been cultivated since ancient times from Mesopotamia to prehistoric Egypt. The ancient Egyptians used the fruits to make date wine, and ate them at harvest.[citation needed] Evidence of cultivation is continually found throughout later civilizations in the Indus Valley, including the Harappan period of 2600 to 1900 BCE.[13] The ancient Hebrews made the fruit into wine, vinegar, bread, and cakes, also using the fruit stones to fatten livestock and the wood to make utensils.[15] In Ancient Rome the palm fronds used in triumphal processions to symbolize victory were most likely those of Phoenix dactylifera.[16] The date palm was a popular garden plant in Roman peristyle gardens, though it would not bear fruit in the more temperate climate of Italy.[17] It is recognizable in frescoes from Pompeii and elsewhere in Italy, including a garden scene from the House of the Wedding of Alexander.[18] In later times, traders spread dates around South West Asia, northern Africa, and Spain. Dates were introduced into Mexico and California by the Spaniards in 1765, around Mission San Ignacio. A date palm cultivar, probably what used to be called Judean date palm, is renowned for its long-lived orthodox seed, which successfully sprouted after accidental storage for 2000 years.[19] The upper survival time limit of properly stored seeds remains unknown.[20] A genomic study from New York University Abu Dhabi Center for Genomics and Systems Biology showed that domesticated date palm varieties from North Africa, including well-known varieties such as Medjool and Deglet Nour, are a hybrid between Middle East date palms and the Cretan wild palm P. theophrasti. Date palms appear in the archaeological record in North Africa about 2,800 years ago, suggesting that the hybrid was spread by the Minoans or Phoenicians. Dates are an important traditional crop in Iraq, Iran, Arabia, and north Africa west to Morocco. Dates (especially Medjool and Deglet Noor) are also cultivated in America in southern California, Arizona and southern Florida in the United States and in Sonora and Baja California in Mexico. Date palms can take 4 to 8 years after planting before they will bear fruit, and start producing viable yields for commercial harvest between 7 and 10 years. Mature date palms can produce 150–300 lb (70–140 kg)[26][27] of dates per harvest season. They do not all ripen at the same time so several harvests are required. To obtain fruit of marketable quality, the bunches of dates must be thinned and bagged or covered before ripening so that the remaining fruits grow larger and are protected from weather and animals that also eat them, such as birds. Date palms require well-drained deep sandy loam soils with a pH of 8-11 (i.e., alkali). The soil should have the ability to hold the moisture. The soil should also be free from calcium carbonate.