Washingtonia robusta

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Washingtonia robusta
Washingtonia robusta.jpg
Mexican washingtonias planted in Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Monocots
Clade: Commelinids
Order: Arecales
Family: Arecaceae
Genus: Washingtonia
W. robusta
Binomial name
Washingtonia robusta
  • Brahea robusta Voss
  • Neowashingtonia robusta (H.Wendl.) A.Heller
  • Neowashingtonia sonorae (S.Watson) Rose
  • Pritchardia robusta (H.Wendl.) Schröt.
  • Washingtonia filifera var. gracilis (Parish) L.D.Benson
  • Washingtonia filifera var. robusta (H.Wendl.) Parish
  • Washingtonia filifera var. sonorae (S.Watson) M.E.Jones
  • Washingtonia gracilis Parish
  • Washingtonia robusta var. gracilis (Parish) Parish ex Becc.
  • Washingtonia sonorae S.Watson

Washingtonia robusta, the Mexican fan palm or Mexican washingtonia, is a palm tree native to western Sonora and Baja California Sur in northwestern Mexico. It is reportedly naturalized in Florida, California, Hawaii, Texas, parts of the Canary Islands, France, Italy, Israel, Lebanon, Qatar, Spain, and Réunion.[3][4]


W. robusta grows to 25 m (82 ft) tall, rarely up to 30 m (98 ft). The leaves have a petiole up to 1 m (3.3 ft) long, and a palmate fan of leaflets up to 1 m long. The inflorescence is up to 3 m (9.8 ft) long, with numerous small, pale orange-pink flowers. The fruit is a spherical, blue-black drupe, 6–8 mm (0.24–0.31 in) diameter; it is edible, though thin-fleshed.[5]


The approximate range of cultivation of Mexican fan palms in the US with little to no winter protection

Like the closely related Washingtonia filifera (California fan palm), it is grown as an ornamental tree. Although very similar, the Mexican washingtonia has a narrower trunk (which is typically somewhat wider at the base), and grows slightly faster and taller; it is also somewhat less cold hardy than the California washingtonia, hardy to about −8 °C (18 °F).

Field research conducted on W. robusta in its native habitat on the Baja California peninsula concluded that its potential longevity may exceed 500 years.[6]

Supporting research by Barry Tomlinson and Brett Huggett states that there is "evidence for extreme longevity of metabolically functioning cells of considerable diversity in palm stems."[7] Many of the iconic "sky dusters" of Los Angeles that have survived the chainsaws of progress are documented in photography from the 19th century.

The Mexican fan palm is normally grown in the desert Southwestern United States, in areas such as California, Arizona, southern Nevada, southwestern Utah and Texas. It also cultivated in the coastal areas of South Atlantic states and the Gulf Coast, including extreme southern North Carolina, coastal South Carolina, southern Georgia, and Florida. Along the Gulf Coast, Mexican fan palms can be found growing along the Florida west coast westward to South Texas.

Washingtonia × filibusta is a hybrid of W. robusta and W. filifera, and has intermediate characteristics of the two parents, especially greater tolerance of wet cold.[8]



  1. ^ "Washingtonia robusta". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Retrieved 2010-07-17.
  2. ^ The Plant List
  3. ^ Kew World Checklist of Selected Plant Families,Washingtonia robusta
  4. ^ Biota of North America Program 2014 county distribution map
  5. ^ Little, Elbert L. (1994) [1980]. The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Trees: Western Region (Chanticleer Press ed.). Knopf. p. 326. ISBN 0394507614.
  6. ^ Bullock, S.H.; Heath, D. (2006). "Growth rates and age of native palms in the Baja California desert". Journal of Arid Environments. 67 (3): 391–402. Bibcode:2006JArEn..67..391B. doi:10.1016/j.jaridenv.2006.03.002.
  7. ^ Tomlinson, P. Barry; Huggett, Brett A. (2012-12-01). "Cell longevity and sustained primary growth in palm stems". American Journal of Botany. 99 (12): 1891–1902. doi:10.3732/ajb.1200089. ISSN 0002-9122. PMID 23221497.
  8. ^ Riffle, Robert Lee (2008). Timber Press Pocket Guide to Palms. Timber Press Pocket Guides. Portland, Oregon: Timber Press. p. 224. ISBN 978-0-88192-776-4.

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