Monday, June 10, 2013

The European fan palm

No, this isn't a post about EU membership, Euro financial problems (will I ever get the €1.79 I'm owed in royalties?), or other benefits of what was supposed to be a common market.

It's a post about Chaemerops humilis, the European fan palm, one of only two European native palms*.  I have one in the rear garden.
Chaemerops humilis in the rear garden, June 2013

It was only a baby when I planted it in 2002 but it's grown a little since then.  We've had mild winters, cold winters, warm and cool summers, torrential rain and, this year, the coldest spring since 1891.  It hasn't turned a hair.  Not bad for a palm from the Mediterranean coastline, from places where winters can be cold and wet but summers are guaranteed to be long, warm and dry.  It's a tough plant, along with Trachycarpus fortunei, one of the two palms almost certain to succeed anywhere in lowland Britain.

Not only tough but good looking.  The palm fronds on mine have remained in good condition for years, clothing my - relatively - young plant to the base as the central growing point atop the stem gradually gets further and further from the ground.  In time, I'll need to trim the oldest away, slowly revealing the stem, and producing a far more palm like palm.  Having said that it will be a good few years yet before it reaches the sort of height and appearance shown below.
Trimmed Chaemerops humilis, Italy
This is a clumping palm, producing daughter stems from basal buds, an adaption to frequent fire in the garigue and maquis vegetation types.  Mine currently has four smaller offsets, their fronds hidden amongst the larger fronds of the parent, but equally capable of developing into trunked specimens.  But it won't be a rapid process.  In cool Plymouth I get about 8 - 10 new fronds a year developing from the terminal growing point, considerably less than in warmer gardens.  No matter.  At least it won't outlive its welcome for many a year.  Though it would be nice to have something like this in the garden:

Multi stemmed Chaemerops humilis, Italy
Mine now flowers annually, during May and June, the smallish branched flower stalks coming directly out of the stem.  I have, I think, a female plant but without a corresponding male I'm never likely to see the clusters of rather attractive red-orange fruit developing.

Chaemerops humilis,  female flowers

Chaemerops humilis in fruit, Italy
I have the standard form with normal green leaves but there is also a silver leafed form, 'Argentea'.  In hot, sunny climates it can appear an almost electric blue but under our cloudy skies it is less impressive.  Still attractive, with a silvery grey powdering on the leaves, it's well worth choosing as an alternative or in addition to the greener form.

As always, click the pictures to embiggen.

*The other European palm being Phoenix theophrastii, native to Crete.

1 comment:

  1. Glad to see you have a specimen that's doing so well and have sailed through the string of cold winters we had only a few years ago. It's proved to be not so tough for us, in our garden anyway but still a worthy addition.