California Fan Palm

Common Names:
California Fan Palm, Desert Fan Palm, Petticoat Palm, American Cotton Palm
Scientific name:
Washingtonia filifera
Height | Length:
75 ft.
Life Cycle | Lifeform:
Tree
Notes:
Water-indicating plant, Food for insects & larvae, Attracts butterflies, Food for birds, Nesting place for birds
Ancestral Usage:
food, clothing/shoes, basketry/tools, shelter
State Occurrences:
Parks & Preserves:
Desert region:
Mojave, Sonoran
Comments: 

Named for George Washington, first American president.

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California Fan Palm  in the desert

A Washingtonia filifera juvenile's fronds capture the light beautifully. Coachella Valley Preserve | March 2013  

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California Fan Palm in the desert

When the fronds of Washingtonia filifera die, they fold over and form a "skirt", remaining attached. A diverse array of species live under the cover of the skirt, including insects, lizards, birds, snakes and rodents.  Coachella Valley Preserve | March 2010  

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California Fan Palm in the desert

Washingtonia filifera groves are relicts of a time when what we now know as desert was then a tropical rainforest with inland seas. Andreas Canyon, Palm Springs, CA | Jan 2009  

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California Fan Palm in the desert

The black-purple fruit of Washingtonia filifera hangs in a pendant-like arrangement. Countless species of birds, such as the Hooded Oriole, depend on this fruit and nest in the trees. Coachella Valley Preserve | March 8, 2010

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California Fan Palm in the desert

Washingtonia filifera closer view of fruit. In addition to birds, rodents, foxes, coyotes and other animals find nourishment in it. Insects consume the nectar of the flowers as well. This tree is extremely important to all life within the vicinity of these desert oases. Coachella Valley Preserve | March 2010  

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California Fan Palm in the desert

Washingtonia filifera palm frond litter on the desert floor is home to insects, lizards and some birds. Coachella Valley Preserve | March 2010 

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California Fan Palm  in the desert

Washingtonia filifera natural oasis in a remote area. Mtn Palm Springs, Anza Borrego Desert State Park | March 2010  

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California Fan Palm  in the desert

Washingtonia filifera with thunderstorm looming in Andreas Canyon. This area is owned by the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians. These palms were important in practically every aspect of Native American life. Palm Springs, CA | January 2009   

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California Fan Palm  in the desert

View of a tall Washingtonia filifera looking skyward at its fan-shaped leaves. Palm Canyon, Palm Springs, CA | March 2013   

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California Fan Palm in the desert

 Male Red-Shafted Flicker eating berries of Washingtonia filifera.  Coachella Valley Preserve | January 2009

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California Fan Palm in the desert

Washingtonia filifera primarily occurs in the Colorado (Sonoran) Desert in California southward into Mexico where it is more common, but a few Mojave Desert locations exist. These palms primarily occur in desert riparian corridors or along geological faults, such as this one on the San Andreas Fault. Coachella Valley Preserve, CA | March 2013 

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California Fan Palm in the desert

Small population of Washingtonia filifera in an area almost devoid of any other lifeform. Take a moment and imagine their importance to wildlife passing through... Unfortunately other individuals in this area have recently perished, likely due to climate change. Borrego Badlands, Anza Borrego Desert State Park | December 2005   

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California Fan Palm in the desert

An artful arrangement of severed Washingtonia filifera palm fronds.  Coachella Valley Preserve | March 8, 2010