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What is a Mediterranean Fan Palm?

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  • Written By: Alex Tree
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 01 September 2016
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The Mediterranean fan palm, also known as the European fan palm or by its scientific name, Chamaerops humilis, is the lone species of the genus Chamaerops. It is considered the most northerly of palms and is the only palm species native to continental Europe. It grows multiple trunks that can reach up to 6 to 20 feet (1.8 to 6 m) tall. Green, blue, or silver colored leaves form a canopy that is 15 to 20 feet (4.5 to 6 m) in diameter.

These slow-growing palm trees are native to the foothills of Africa, particularly Algeria. They can also be found along the Mediterranean coasts of Spain, France, and Italy. The cultivation of the European fan palm as a garden plant is typically carried out in regions with Mediterranean climates as well as in the coastal south of the United States. It is a hardy and adaptable palm that grows in various types of soil and under both full shade and sunlight.

A Mediterranean fan palm will sometimes grow only a single trunk, but most of these plants have multiple trunks that grow outward from their centers. Each trunk can be small if planted in containers or may reach up to 20 feet (6 m) when allowed to grow in open ground. The trunks are 1 foot (0.3 m) wide and consist of dense fibers and old leaf sheaths that vary in color among gray, brown, and black.

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The leaves of this tree are palmate with an average length of 3 feet (0.9 m). There are 32 rigid segments in every leaf. These leaves form a tightly packed cluster that hides the erect yellow flowers, which are 6 inches (15.2 cm) long. The palm’s leaf canopy makes a circular outline. Mature flowers bear yellow, orange, or brown fruits that are 0.5 to 1.5 inches (1.3 to 3.8 cm) thick.

This palm is a low-maintenance plant that requires minimal watering and tolerates drought conditions. It can grow in sandy soil but thrives in moist, well-drained soil. The Mediterranean fan palm is not suitable for humid climates but is hardy to temperatures of 10 to 15 ºF (-12.2 to -9.4 ºC) and can tolerate temperatures as cold as 6 ºF (-14.4 ºC).

Some gardeners use this palm as an accent plant placed in either small containers or the ground. The Mediterranean fan palm is also used as a hedge and border plant because it is sturdy and dense. Pruning is necessary to achieve a symmetrical outline.

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