Chamaerops humilis
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Common Name

European Fan Palm or Mediterranean Fan Palm.

Habitat

Chamaerops humilis is native to the western Mediterranean region, in southwestern Europe and northwest Africa.

Landscape Character

It is a shrub-like clumping palm, with several stems growing from a single base. The stems grow slowly and often tightly together, eventually reaching 6 to 18 feet tall with a trunk diameter of 8 to 12 inches. It is a fan palm, with the leaves with a long petiole terminating in a rounded fan of 10-20 leaflets; each leaf is up to 5 feet long, with the leaflets 50-80 cm long. It also has numerous sharp needle-like spines produced on the leaf stems; these protect the stem growing point from browsing animals.

Flowers

Insignificant. The flowers are borne in dense, short clusters at the top of the stems. The fruit is a brown drupe 1-2 cm long.

There are two varieties:

Chamaerops humilis var. humilis - Native to southwest Europe. Leaves green.
Chamaerops humilis var. argentea (a.k.a. cerifera). - Native to northwest Africa. Leaves glaucous.

It is closely related to the genus Trachycarpus from Asia, differing in clumping habit (Trachycarpus only forms single stems without basal suckers), the spiny leaf stems (spineless in Trachycarpus), and in small details of the flower anatomy.

Ecology

It is adapted to a Mediterranean climate with cool, moist winters and summer drought, and typically grows on dry hill slopes. It is one of the hardier palms, tolerating winter frosts down to about −12°C, though it does require hot summers for good growth.

In some areas, including its northernmost native location, it is seriously threatened by an introduced South American moth Paysandisia archon.

It is often grown as an ornamental plant in the Deep South and Florida.


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