UNESO World Heritage Sites: The Palmeral of Elche in Spain
The Palmeral of Elche was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2000, because of its palm trees, that make this town unique in Europe.
Elche is a busy, modern town, but with every street lined with palms, it looks more like a forest. Elche’s protected palms are the surviving remnant of an Arab palm tree industry that flourished when the Muslim civilisation, the Moors, ruled Spain during the early Middle Ages.
The production of date palms is still a massive industry across the Middle East. The juicy date, is an essential ingredient in Arab cuisine and its flexible, tough palm leaf and trunk are still used as a building and packing material. But today, wars and pests are threatening this ancient industry. Elche, in the region of Valencia, is coming to the rescue.
Palmeral of Elche
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
|Palmeral of Elche*|
|UNESCO World Heritage Site|
|Region**||Europe and North America|
|Inscription||2000 (24th Session)|
|* Name as inscribed on World Heritage List. |
** Region as classified by UNESCO.
The Palmeral of Elche (Spanish: Palmeral de Elche, Catalan: Palmerar d'Elx) is a plantation of palm trees in the Spanish province of Alicante. It is the largest palm grove (Spanish: palmeral) in Europe and one of the largest in the world, surpassed in size only by some in Arab countries.
The Palmeral includes the Parque Municipal and many other orchards (huertos), covering over 3.5 square kilometres, including 1.5 km² within the city of Elche (Elx). It contains more than 11,000 palm trees, mostly date palms, with individual specimens up to 300 years old. At its peak, in the 18th century, it may have covered an area twice as large, with up to 200,000 trees. The dates are harvested in December. The largest palm is the "Imperial Palm" (Palmera Imperial), with 7 stems in the shape of a candelabra, named after Elisabeth, known as Sissi, the Empress consort of Franz Joseph, who visited the plantation in 1894.
It is thought that palms were originally planted in this location as early as the 5th century BC by Carthaginians who settled in south-east Spain. The plantation survived under the Romans and the Moors. The irrigation system was extended in the times of Abd ar-Rahman I and remains in use. The formal landscape of the palmeral that still exists today was created when the city was under Moorish control in the 10th century. Although the area has an annual rainfall of only 300 mm, the palm trees planted along a network of irrigation canals from the salty River Vinalopó creates a patchwork of agricultral plots (huertos), each demarcated and shaded by the palm trees to create a protected microclimate. Laws were passed to protect the plantation after the Reconquista.
- This article is based on a translation of the equivalent article of the Spanish Wikipedia, dated 4 July 2006
- Palmeral of Elche from UNESCO
- El Palmeral de Elche - A Cultural Landscape Inherited from Al-Andalus
 External links
- Elche Spain City overview with detailed map. From a local citizen.
- Information on the picudo rojo (red palm weevil) (Spanish)