Ajuntament de Barcelona

Chamaerops humilis

Mossèn Costa i Llobera Garden

    Catalan name: 
    Spanish name: 
    English name: 
    Dwarf fan palm

    According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the conservation status of this plant is least concern.

    Species characteristics
    Western Mediterranean area
    Open and dry places, in rocky areas and mountainsides, always near the seaboard

    Dioecious palm tree (with different masculine and feminine stipes) 3-4 m tall, although it can reach 9 m, with several stipes (non branched trunk finishing into a bunch of leaves), even if sometimes there are only one.  The erecs and fibrous stems are greyish.

    The leaves are palmately lobed (more or less in a circular fan shape), 40-80 cm in diameter. They are dark green and divided into 12-15 pointed segments, with an often forked apex. The petiole, which is thin and long as the limb, has plentiful prickles 2-3 cm long. 

    The tiny yellow hermaphrodite flowers appear into inflorescences 15-30 cm long among the leaves.

    The fruits are rounded and slightly fleshy reddish yellow drupes, up to 1.5 cm in diameter.

    Flowering time: 
    Fruiting time: 
    Uses and properties: 

    Its fruits, called chamaerops or fox bread, are astringent because of its high content in tannins and have been used in popular medicine.

    As with other palms, its leaves are used in making baskets and to make brooms. The fibers are used in the paper and clothing industry.

    It is commonly used in gardening as a garden plant in areas with no freeze.

    History and curiosities: 

    The scientific name of the dwarf fan palm, Chamaerops humilis, consists of the genus name Chamaerops, from the Greek χαμαί, “on the ground”, and ῥώψ, “shrub”, and the Latin term humilis, “humble”.

    The dwarf fan palm is one of the only two European indigenous fans (the other one is the Cretan date palm, Phoenix theophrasti) and the single species of the Chamaerops genus.

    In our country, it grows spontaneously to Garraf mountains, because it doesn't resist the frost; on the other hand, it supports very well saltiness, drought and wind.

    When young, it can be mixed up with a Trachicarpus fortunei, without prickless on the petiole and more resistant to cold. The oldest known specimen of dwarf fan palm is the so-called palma di Goethe, "Goethe's palm”, planted circa 1585 in Padua (Italy).

    For further information: 

    LÓPEZ GONZÁLEZ, Ginés A. Los árboles y arbustos de la Península Ibérica e Islas Baleares. (2 vol.) Madrid: Mundi-Prensa, 2001

    CAÑIZO, José Antonio del. Palmeras. Madrid: Mundi-Prensa, 2002

    THE ROYAL HORTICULTURAL SOCIETY. Enciclopedia de plantas y flores. Barcelona: Grijalbo, 1996