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Articles > Chamaerops humilis

1 Mar 1999

On Halloween day of 1993, before we knew of the Palm Society, my wife Louise, and I traveled to Valley Center and decided to buy a Chamaerops humilis, known as the Mediterranean Fan Palm.   I remember well that it was Halloween because the saleslady dressed up as a witch and did a marvelous English accent, as if she had been locked away in a castle in England.  I wanted to ask her palm questions, but she wanted none of that, she just wanted to play act and fully expected me to respond to her as if she really was a witch.  Gosh, that’s embarrassing.


It was in a 15 gallon container, maybe average size for that container, and it cost only $8.00.  I thought it was a decent bargain so I bought it, but would you believe that I probably wouldn’t have paid $12.00 for it?  That was my thinking, then.  As John Tallman says, “With palms, you are buying time”.  And the older I get the more I realize that I must start buying some of that “time”.


This is a palm that is a must for all beginners.   With features that satisfy the most sophisticated palmophile (are palmnuts sophisticated?), it happens to be described by one word....Bulletproof.  It has slow growth, and apparently slow reaction to damaging frost, wind, and overwatering.  You would have to be extremely negligent to cause one to die.  I’ll give you an example, but remember I wasn’t a Palm Society member yet.  We planted it directly in the ground; acclimation was an unknown concept.  One day I got a brainstorm of an idea, why dump the spent Spa water over the hill when I can water 10 gallons here and 10 gallons there via siphoning and do all of my palms, and save all that money ($0.75)?  Well, even if there were several days since I had chlorinated the water in the Spa, there were still trace amounts of chlorine, plus a myriad of other minerals palms probably don’t want.  And then I placed the hose into the ground ring of my Mediterranean Fan Palm and forgot it.  About 100 gallons later I came back and removed the hose.  This palm sat in water-soaked DG for 3 days straight!  A week later the tips began to brown.  A week after that each alternating layer of leaves turned lemon yellow.  I can’t understand why it alternated, you would think that it would spread evenly.  It took about 2 years before this palm recovered.


It is an astounding palm.  When it reaches 7-8 feet of trunk, it can have a gentle arc that is delightfully tropical in nature, yet this is a palm that survives in desert conditions.  It suckers naturally, so if you want to keep it looking clean, perhaps cutting the new growth away is best.  The hairy trunk sets it apart from most of the common palms.  Ours is 6 years old now, on top of the 4? years in the pot.  It is about 6 feet tall, a beauty!  Plan on 4-6 inches of growth per year, perfect for the near patio location.


Chamaerops humilus


David Minks