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Coordinates: 38°16′10″N 0°41′54″W / 38.26944°N 0.69833°W / 38.26944; -0.69833

Palmeral of Elche*
UNESCO World Heritage Site

Arcoiris en el Palmeral de Elche.jpg
State Party  Spain
Type Cultural
Criteria ii, v
Reference 930
Region** Europe and North America
Inscription history
Inscription 2000  (24th Session)
* Name as inscribed on World Heritage List.
** Region as classified by UNESCO.

The Palmeral of Elche (Spanish: Palmeral de Elche, Valencian: 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. A famous 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.

In 2005, it was discovered that the larvae of the red palm weevil (Rhynchophorus ferrugineus) had infested some trees, laying its eggs inside the stems.

Panoramic view of Elche, showing the palm trees within the city.


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