Washingtonia filifera (filifera - Latin "thread-bearing"), common names Desert Fan Palm, American Cotton palm, Arizona Fan Palm, or California Fan Palm) is a palm native to the desert oases of Central, southern and southwestern Arizona, southern Nevada, extreme northwest Mexico and the inland deserts of Southern California and can live from 80 to 250 years or more. The genus name honors George Washington, the first President of the United States.
The fruit of the fan palm was used by Native Americans. It was eaten raw, cooked, or ground into flour for cakes. The Cahuilla tribe used the leaves to make sandals, thatch roofs, and for making baskets. The fan palm was a valuable resource and the stems were used to make utensils for cooking.
It is widely cultivated as an ornamental tree. (It is not as widely cultivated as the Mexican Fan Palm Washingtonia robusta - a close cousin which is grown throughout the lower elevations of Nevada, California, Arizona, Texas, New Mexico and extreme southwestern Utah. W. filifera is one of the hardiest of Coryphoidiae palms, and repeatedly survives dips into the teens and even several inches of snow, making it a favorite of cold-hardy palm enthusiasts.
It's a shame that this tree is not more widely cultivated since it's soaring height makes for spectacular trees.
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The less hardy cousin W. robusta needs slightly milder winters and may be visibly damaged at 20 degrees Fahrenheit and is also more amenable to humidity making it more favored along the Gulf Coast, in states such as Texas, Louisiana, and Florida, and the Mediterranean region.