What is a European Fan Palm?

Christina Edwards

Chamaerops is a genus of plant that is a member of the Arecaceae family. There is only one known species in this genus, Champaerops humilis, commonly known as the European fan palm. The European fan palm is native to the western Mediterranean region, but it is often used in landscaping as an ornamental plant. Because this palm is much hardier than most other palms, it has become a popular addition to outside gardens in warmer parts of the world.

European fan palms are often used in landscaping as an ornamental plant.
European fan palms are often used in landscaping as an ornamental plant.

The European fan palm can be best described as a shrub-like clumping palm with a central base. From this base, several smaller stems, which are protected by sharp spines, grow upwards to a possible height of 15 feet (4.6 meters) and a spread of roughly 6 to 10 feet (1.8 to 3 meters) when grown outdoors. When grown in a pot indoors, however, it will not typically get larger than 4 feet (1.2 meters) tall.

The Mediterranean fan palm is the lone species of the genus Chamaerops.
The Mediterranean fan palm is the lone species of the genus Chamaerops.

On these stems, fan-shaped leaves grow to a width of up to 24 inches (60 centimeters). Each leaf on the European fan palm is made up of 10 to 20 leaflets, which are generally 20 to 36 inches (50.8 to 91.4 centimeters) long. The leaflets can vary in color, depending on the plant, and they can be yellowish green, blue green, or a silvery green.

Flowers usually bloom on the European fan palm during the late spring and summer months. These small bright, yellow flowers are clustered together near the base close to the trunk, and one often has to look hard to find them, because they are usually hidden by the plant's large, bushy leaves. More often than not, the flowers of these palms are dioecious, meaning that there are either male or female flowers on any given plant.

As autumn approaches, the flowers of this palm will give way to small inconspicuous fruit. Like the flowers of the European fan palm, the fruit is clustered together close to the stem and are hardly noticeable. Often getting no larger than 0.5 inches (1.3 centimeters) in diameter, this fruit is round and hard. The color can vary, but it is typically a shade of orange or brown.

The warmer climates of southwestern Europe and northwestern Africa are home to the European fan palm, and it can be found in countries such as Portugal, Spain, Italy, Morocco, and Tunisia. After severe cold weather throughout parts of Florida destroyed a number of other types of palm, the European fan palm became quite popular in the United States. It is able to survive most drought conditions, and it can also tolerate temperatures down to 10 degrees Fahrenheit (-12 degrees Celsius). Because of this, it is now planted throughout parts of the southern United States as far north as Georgia.

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