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California Fan Palm Washingtonia filifera


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Family: Arecaceae, Palm view all from this family

Description An evergreen monocot from 9-15 m. (30-50 ft.) in height and 0.3-0.6 m. (1-2 ft.) in diameter. Crown a rosette of large leaves, supported by a columnar trunk. Trunk smooth, gray. Unburned trunks are covered by a mass of pendent dead leaves called a shag or skirt. Outer trunk tissue consists of a thick, barklike rind. Flowers May and June. Leaves die at the end summer growing season, remaining attached to the trunk. Fruits ripen in September, and seeds ripen and drop from November to January. Fruit a drupe containing a single large seed. Roots variously described in literature as shallow or deep; depth varies with depth of the water table, with palms growing near seeps and springs having the more shallow root systems. Determining exact age difficult because tree-ring counts cannot be made on monocots. Maximum age attained estimated to be 200 years. Mature trees typically live about 150 years. California palm can withstand about 22 hours of subfreezing temperature.

Dimensions Height: 6-18 m. (20-60 ft.)
Diameter: 0.6-0.9 m. (2-3 ft.).

Habitat Cities, suburbs & towns, Deserts, Mountains.

Range Florida, Southwest, California.

Discussion Only palm native to the contiguous United States west of the Balcones Fault Zone in Texas. (except isolated stands of Sabal minor in Texas Hill Country.) Seeds disseminated primarily by the coyote. Coyote often transport seeds over considerable distances. Many animals live in close association with California palm. Amphibians; the canyon tree frog, Pacific tree frog frequent the hydric zone and nearby boulders beneath palms. Various rodents use the shag for cover. A species of rat snake (Elaphe rosalica) depends upon the shag for shelter and food (rodents). Oases attract numerous species of birds because of the relative abundance of food, shelter, and nesting sites as compared to open desert. Hooded orioles use fibers as nesting material, often constructing nests within the palms. Gray fox and various birds and rodents eat the fruit, and the fruit is the main component in the fall diet of coyote.