Washingtonia filifera

Accession Count: 226
Common Name: California Fan Palm
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Family Name: Arecaceae
Botanical Name: Washingtonia filifera
Synonyms:
Family Synonyms: Palmae
Sub Species:
Variety:
Forma:
Cultivar:
Characteristics: Washingtonia filifera is an single-stem evergreen tree.The canopy can grow to be 10 to 15 feet in diameter, and the heavy, stout stem is typically three feet thick and reaches 40 feet high. The fan-shaped leaves are approximately three to six feet wide and have many folds. The leaves, which are dull green in color, are more or less erect to horizontal when functioning (1). They do not fall off when they senesce (grow old), but instead hang down to form a "skirt." If left untrimmed, the thatched skirt may reach the length of the stem, and serves to protect the trunk from freezing. It may also play a role in making the tree fire resistant. Quickly moving, relatively cool fires burn the skirt but not the trunk itself. Flowers are inconspicuous and occur on branches up to 14 ft long, with the fruits ripen in the fall (2).
Compound: Was fil
Geographic Origin: Desert Southwest
Ecozone Origin: Nearctic
Biome Origin:
Natural History: The California fan palm is native to southwest Arizona, southern California, Baja California, and Sonora, Mexico (1). Interestingly, this palm tree is the only native palm tree in the western United States, and it is primarily found in desert riparian habitats along rivers of the southwest United States. It is known to have naturalized in Australia, Hawaii, U.S. Virgin Islands, and regions of the southeast United States (3). 
Cultivation Notes: W. filifera is well adapted to desert climates. Very little water is required, using only once a month and sometimes not at all if rainfall is sufficient. The California fan palm is best grown in open spaces, with full sun exposure and well drained loamy or sandy soils. Soil that is too moist can make to root susceptible to root rot. This tree is a hardy plant, with temperatures below 18oF should be avoided (1,3). 
Ethnobotany: The fruits are eaten by the Cahuilla people, Native Americans of southeast California and the Cocopa people of Arizona. They can be eaten fresh, dried, juiced, or preserved. Cahuilla grind the seeds into a mush (4). Terminal buds are baked and eaten. Leaves are used as thatch for homes. The fiber obtained from the leaves is used to make ropes and baskets. These palms are important to the native peoples in southwestern North America, and some ethnobotanists believe the present distribution of the plant is related in part to human dispersal (4). 
The California fan palm is typically planted by itself, or along the street in rows. If planting using xeriscape techniques, it is best to place these trees in transition or arid zones (1). 

Height: 20 - 50 feet
Width: 11 - 15 feet
Growth Rate: Moderate Growing
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Function: Accent
Spread: Non-spreading
Allergen: Non-allergenic
Invasive: Benign
Toxicity: Benign
Hardy: Hardy
Water Use: Low water Use

Citations:
1. Perry, Bob. Landscape Plants for Western Regions: An Illustrated Guide to Plants for Water Conservation. Land Design Publishing, 1992.
2. USDA Forest Service -- Retrieved Oct. 11, 2018
3. California Native Plant Society -- Retrieved Oct 11, 2018
4. Moerman, Daniel E. Native American Ethnobotany. Portland, Or. :Timber Press, 1998. Print.
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Washingtonia filifera