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Arecaceae, Washingtonia filifera – Zappio park, Athens, Greece

May 23, 2012

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I took these photos of massive, old Washingtonia filifera palms growing in Zappio park, Athens (just off Syntagma square and Parliament). The tree is native to California and other parts of the Western United States, alternatively known by the name California fan palm or Arizona fan palm. I’m not sure how old these trees were, but they can live for up to 250 years and grow 82 feet tall.

Fossils of this palm have been found in Colorado, Oregon, and Wyoming. Apparently the palm reached its current form 50 – 70 million years ago.

Because native W. filifera populations depend on the riparian palm oases habitat to survive they are increasingly threatened in the wild due to urbanization and groundwater depletion and the consequent disappearance of these microclimates. Increased agriculture irrigation needs have lowered aquifers which decreases or stops water availability at seeps and springs in palm oases. Despite its diminishing presence in the wild this species is frequently used as an ornamental landscape specimen.

Native Americans had a number of uses for the fan palm. The fruit was eaten raw, cooked, or ground in to flour. The Cahuilla used the leaves for thatch, weaving baskets and sandals. Stems were used to make cooking utensils.

This is one of the hardiest Coryphoidiae palms and will survive temperatures of −10 °C (14 °F)

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