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These Dead Sea populations comprise equal numbers of staminate and pistillate palms, they are sexually-reproducing and occupy primary habitats, such as wet escarpments, gorges, springs and seepage areas, suggesting that they are wild.

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The cultural and religious significance of date palms, over a recorded 5000 year history, reflects their economic importance.

The date palm was associated with the primitive Semitic goddess (Ishtar or Astarte) who symbolised the creative force of nature (Popenoe 1973).

dactylifera, and Beccari (1890) a further two, using only loosely defined fruit characters.

Many cultivars are potentially referrable to any one of these names because of the brevity of the descriptions so that the names are useless to date grower and botanist alike.

The term 'variety' has not been clearly defined in respect to the date palm, and was used by Popenoe (1973) to refer to what I consider to be cultivars.

Martius (1823 - 1853) described seven varieties of P.Baluchistan, lowland Khuzistan, and the southern base of the Zagros Range facing the Persian Gulf, in particular, were identified by Werth (1955) and Zohary & Hopf (1988) as areas supporting populations of 'wild dates'.Zohary (pers comm.) reported spontaneous 'wild dates' bordering the Dead Sea on both Israeli and Jordanian sides.It is difficult to ascertain whether these represent wild plants or merely secondary escapes from cultivated groves.Zohary & Hopf (1988) claimed that true 'wild dates', bearing small dry, hardly comestible fruits, are found in some areas of the Near East, growing in deep ravines, cliffs, and inaccessible gorges, often indicating ground water.To resolve this question a multi-disciplinary approach is advisable, combining evidence from botanical and ecological data with historical, cultural and archaeological information.