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Washingtonia filifera (California fan palm)
Cressler, Alan

Washingtonia filifera

Washingtonia filifera (Linden ex André) H. Wendl.

California Fan Palm, Desert Palm, Petticoat Palm

Arecaceae (Palm Family)

Synonym(s): Brahea filamentosa, Brahea filifera, Neowashingtonia filamentosa, Pritchardia filamentosa, Pritchardia filifera, Washingtonia filamentosa, Washingtonia filifera var. robusta

USDA Symbol: wafi

USDA Native Status: L48 (N), VI (I)

The California fan palm will eventually grow to 50 ft. Unlike other palms, as the leaves of California fan palm die, they fold down against the stout trunk rather than dropping off. This dense shag or thatch of dead leaves may be burned away with a light fire. The large, gray-green leaf blades are from 3-6 ft. long and segmented nearly to the middle. They hang from stout, spiny petioles. Relatively small, whitish flowers are followed by hard, black, pea-sized fruits.

The largest native palm of the continental United States as well as the only western species, it is also known as "Desert-palm." Another name is "Petticoat-palm" from the shaggy mass of dead leaves hanging against the trunk. Groves are in Palm Canyon near Palm Springs and in Joshua Tree National Monument. It is cultivated widely as an ornamental along streets and avenues in southern California, southern Arizona, the Gulf States east to Florida, and in subtropical regions around the world. Indians ate the berries, both fresh and dry, and ground the seeds into meal. This genus honors the first president of the United States.


From the Image Gallery

6 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Tree
Leaf Retention: Evergreen
Fruit Type: Drupe

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: White , Yellow
Bloom Time: Jan , Feb , Mar , Apr , May , Jun , Jul , Dec


Native Distribution: S.e. CA, s.w. AZ & n. Baja
Native Habitat: Moist, alkaline spots near seeps & streams

Growing Conditions

Light Requirement: Sun
Soil Moisture: Moist
Soil Description: Moist, alkaline soils.
Conditions Comments: When planted together in desert areas, California palms provide deep, cool shade. The thatch of dead leaves should be removed periodically. These native palms survive light fires to remove the thatch because their vascular systems are spread throughout the trunks, not right under bark like other trees. Also unlike other trees, palms have no true bark and do not show growth rings.


Description: Sow fresh seed in a friable medium. Germination takes 4-15 weeks.
Seed Treatment: No treatment necessary.
Commercially Avail: yes

National Wetland Indicator Status

This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1 (Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here for map of regions.

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Santa Barbara Botanic Garden - Santa Barbara, CA


Bibref 995 - Native Landscaping from El Paso to L.A. (2000) Wasowski, S. and A. Wasowski

Search More Titles in Bibliography

Additional resources

USDA: Find Washingtonia filifera in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Washingtonia filifera in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Washingtonia filifera


Record Modified: 2018-11-20
Research By: TWC Staff

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