Description from Flora of China
Stems solitary or clustered, short and subterranean to large and aerial, usually rough with very close nodes, often covered with persistent leaf bases. Leaves 8-50, pinnate; leaf sheaths open; pinnae induplicate, regularly or irregularly arranged and then spreading in different planes, at base of leaf modified into short, stout, sharp spines (acanthophylls). Plants dioecious. Inflorescences usually branched to 1 order, borne among leaves; peduncle bearing a prophyll, other bracts much reduced; rachillae often borne in groups or spirals along inflorescence rachis; flowers small, simple, unisexual; male flowers with 6(-9) stamens. Fruits variously colored black or brown, obovoid, oblong, or ellipsoid, usually 1-seeded; mesocarp fleshy, thick and sweet tasting in date palm but thin and bitter in other species; endosperm homogeneous, rarely ruminate; germination remote; eophylls undivided.
In addition to species no. 1 below, Phoenix canariensis Chabaud (Prov. Agric. Hort. Ill. 19: 293. 1882; 加拿利海枣 jia na li hai zao) is cultivated in China. It is native to the Canary Islands.
Records of Phoenix sylvestris (Linnaeus) Roxburgh from China (e.g., FRPS 13(1): 8. 1991) were presumably based on misidentifications.
Fourteen species: from the Canary Islands across Africa, the Mediterranean, and SW Asia to just reaching the Philippines; three species (one introduced) in China.