Washingtonia filifera (California Fan Palm)

Discussion in 'Celebrate Biodiversity' started by anza, Aug 20, 2009.

  1. anza

    anza Active Member 10 Years

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    Info to The Basis for the Current Official Listing of Washingtonia filifera in Moapa Warm Springs, Nevada as a "Non-native" Species - and the evidence that contradicts it.

    This was actually an interesting read I stumbled upon a while back and I thought I'd share it here since it is technically a bit of fascinating natural history about the natural origins of California Fan Palm (Washingtonia filifera). I've been fascinated by this extremely cold hardy native palm since I lived for 24 years in the San Jacinto Mountains not 40 minutes above Palm Springs.

    I had a bit of a difference of opinion with a native Arizonan who took issue with me that the Washingtonia filifera was at all native to Arizona in the first place. Problem is that the individual did realize I have been to every one of the places they have existed in AZ for the last several hundreds of years. But here's what I found. You can click on each link for each of the three parts or simply click on the first one and follow the successive link to parts two and three when you reach the bottom of each page.

    http://www.xeri.com/Moapa/wf-hr-part1.htm

    http://www.xeri.com/Moapa/wf-hr-part2.htm

    http://www.xeri.com/Moapa/wf-hr-part3.htm

     
  2. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    Long experience in cultivation has shown that palms in this genus are not hardy. As it says in the beginning of the paper at your first link, the species in question is a "subtropical relic".
     
  3. anza

    anza Active Member 10 Years

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    Interestingly it is the hardiest of all the palms in the southwest. Yes subtropical relic, but definitely a tough tree. Up in the Santa Rosa mountains above palm desert there are numerous stands on the steep desert mountain slopes at about 3500 ft elevation. In the early 1980s we had horrible arctic blast from the north in the form of those notorious Santa Ana winds from the east. I remember for those first few years those were some miserable times.

    The Coachella Valley below us and near the Salton Sea lost many of it's Grape fruit orchards at around sea level and below to the Salton Sea. The temps at my house averaged 6 below zero F and the areas around the wild oasis palms had to have been below the teens. The only damage to the palms was partial burning of the outer fronds. Come Spring and Summer during those times and they exploded in growth.

    Sadly if you click around that article, it's really a study on whether or not those specific Palms in Nevada were native or not. The U.S. Government says they are not native and all need to be removed, but massive amounts of evidence says otherwise. The reason for removal of those hundreds of Palms from the Muddy river is to save a fish called the Moapa Dace. But the facts show that the palms are of no problem to the fish. Still it's an interesting read. Some of the Hieroglyphics of the areas geology show the universal southwest Native American symbol for the fan palm. Still there has to be some political agenda for all of this to be ignored and insist that the Mormons planted them.

    Here's a link photo of the palm oasis in question.
    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/08/Moapa_Valley_NWR_1.jpg

    Here's the Palm Hieroglyphics on the area rocks. Similiar to symbols around Palm Springs.

    http://www.xeri.com/Moapa/atlpalm.jpg
     
  4. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    If you go by minimum temperatures only for hot climate plants it backfires when you try to translate this into northern hardiness. This is because cold snaps in warm southerly areas are usually too brief to freeze the soil up like it does in the north, where a cold front may remain in effect for weeks.
     
  5. anza

    anza Active Member 10 Years

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    Funny, during those years of cold snaps of the early and middle 1980s, the region received continuous frigid temperatures for three to four months straight. It was a miserable time. So much so that even around the surrounding soil of the palms, you could'nt even take a shovel to break any ground which was normally soft decomposed granite. It's still the toughest of palms when it comes to cold.

    I'm not suggesting anyone plant the palms in their backyards up north there in the pacific northwest. This was not to be a debate about what is and what is not cold hardy or what is or what is not the official definition of hardiness. I merely shared what was some fascinating historical info I thought would have been of interest to some here of Washingtonia filifera having a northern range of southern Nevada and some of the controversy surrounding the U.S. government removal based on flimsy evidence it was not native to the area. The research done from the site I linked was indeed very well done and informative.

    Perhaps I was mistaken.

    If the moderator wishes, then remove the thread and I apologize for the mistake.
     
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2009
  6. bjo

    bjo Active Member 10 Years

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    Anza,

    thanks for the link. I enjoyed the article - though it is a bit longwinded. I think that it is often very difficult/impossible to tell if a plant is truly native or introduced. The author puts together a string of arguments and evidence which I found convincing.

    caio
    Brian
     
  7. anza

    anza Active Member 10 Years

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    Actually my interest in native southwestern plants had much to do with Native american uses of them. I don't think the white pioneers planted them. While they could be naturalized, I think it's a huge possiblity that the Native Americans themselves through trade could have received the seed through trade with one another. Not out of the realm of possibility since many things such as Abalone shells have been found with interior tribes. It also certainly could have been there for hundreds of years as well. Definitely could have been spread that way and then furthered along to other local locations by wildlife droppings of birds, foxes and coyotes which also love the fruit. Whose to say. Look what Europeans have spread.

    One fascinating fact on his website was the comparison between the fronds of Washingtonia Fan Palm from Palm Springs and the variety found in the Kofa Mountains north of Yuma off Hwy 95. The fronds of the Palm Springs palm have nasty shark toothed spikes which I'm very familiar with from years of dealing with them. The Kofa Mtn variety fronds have a smooth stem. Click on this link, scroll to the bottom and notice the comparison.

    http://www.xeri.com/Moapa/photos.htm

    I agree the article was a bit windy, but then I often find that most scientific reports are, including my own. You did see that there were actually 11 pages of the report ??? That's why I posted only three. I understand William spencer's passion for the trees and irritation with the U.S. Forest Service or was it BLM ??? I've had my own disagreements over the years. From some of the photos I've seen of the Moapa Warm Springs, the massive amounts of large SaltCedar or should I say Tamarisks would be more of a concern for me. Of all the water sucking wildlife inhibiting plants, this would be my first priority. That has been one of the worst introductions mankind has brought to the southwest and destroy more riparian habitat than anything else.
     
  8. bjo

    bjo Active Member 10 Years

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    Anza,

    I would imagine that some dna work would throw some light on the relationships between the "Moapa" Washingtonias and other populations. Also, I would think that Washingtonias would have fairly distinctive silicon phytoliths. If these trees are ancient at the site, there would be identifaible phytoliths preserved in (datable) archaeological deposits and materials.

    ...an interesting story, and important to resolve if these are a relict population.

    Sorry to hear that tamarisks are a problem at the site - they are one of my favourite bushes - native here in southern Portugal (or at least believed to be !!!)

    Ciao
    Brian
     
  9. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    Similarly there may have been some "aboriginal" involvement in some of the distribution of prickly pears and Garry oak trees up here.
     
  10. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    Similarly there may have been some "aboriginal" involvement in some of the distribution of prickly pears and Garry oak trees up here.

    The problem with your assertions is statements like

    >It's still the toughest of palms when it comes to cold<

    In cultivation here Trachycarpus fortunei is consistently more durable, Washingtonia on the same sites dying out during cold periods. There is also Rhapidophyllum hystrix, "Perhaps the hardiest palm in the world, taking temperatures well below 0F/-18C" (Sunset Western Garden Book). If you are saying the smooth-leaf type is the one that is more hardy, and it happens this form has not been much observed in modern gardens then that could explain how this highly exceptional trait is apparently not generally known.

    Another phenomenon that results in hot climate plants experiencing significant cold in the wild not persisting in some northern areas (such as here) is the lack of summer heat ripening growth and causing the full level of hardiness to be attained. Cool and damp conditions not found in the habitat can also promote pathogens such as pseudomonas which actually cause frost injury to occur, enabling them to invade plant tissue more readily.
     
  11. anza

    anza Active Member 10 Years

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    I can attest to this involvement personally myself. My interest in native southwestern plants started with the Native Americans uses of them when I was a kid. The one thing I was keen to notice was the presence of prickly pear cactus around, actually right next to the Metate grinding holes themselves in locations where it did'nt seem logical of any natural movement of the plant by any other natural means (animals, birds, etc) , but of course not impossible. Still every old site I have ever visitedin the southern California has had these present when no other surrounding hills or arroyos had them. As you know, placing a Nopal beaver tail pad in the ground is really as easy as child's play.

    In the late 1960s I actually planted many of these as an experiment further up some southern facing canyon hillsides from my parents house along with 100 Coastal Cholla joints I'd rescued and some desert agave I got near Tijuana, Mexico. In San Diego (same for all of southern California) there has been so much growth that many of these things were found on prime land for housing and commercial development. The areas where I obtained the plants back then are entirely gone. About four years back before moving here to Sweden, there was a massive development undertaking called "Sky Mountain Ranch" that was approved for this small chain of mountains I grew up around. My parents house is at the foot of these Rattlesnake Mountains and surrounded by three cities, so it's like an island in a way. They fenced off most of this mountain chain and stripped a good portion of it. They did archealogical studies because of Indian presence and ecological studies of the native floral and animals. Because of the California Natcatcher and other concerns, a certain amount of wild habitat had to be set aside. However when they stripped the future development sites to the bare ground and I thought for sure that the area I had planted was gone. BTW I had also planted several Torrey Pine and several San Diego Coast Barrel Cactus which when I was a kid were numerous everywhere, but collected out of existance or destroyed by fire. Fire in fact did take 18 of the 20 pines I planted, but two are left.

    When I finally went up there one sunday when construction was nill by sneeking past the security fence I found that exactly the entire area (10 acres) had been roped of with sensitive area environmental tape for preservation. Go figure!!!

    So that's why I say that I have personal experience in that human distribution factor. I'd love to find the report and read the reasons for this areas specific preservation. *smile*
     
  12. anza

    anza Active Member 10 Years

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    Okay, well let me just define the word "assertions"

    "Assertions":
    It's of no consequence to me if you don't agree. I made no assertions without proof. I have personally lived, tasted, drank, smelled and breathed Washingtonia filifera most of my life and I know what my personal experience is with this species. Many growers of the species down there advertise the palms by using the same description. here's an example:
    I don't look at the Sunset Western Garden Book as an infallible Bible. I think it does an excellent job more than any other publication of helping the average gardener in simple easy to understand common language and terms along with the scientific terminology to create a successful garden. But my personal experience is mine and I have'nt mistated anything here. I have mentioned the damage that can occur, but these trees always spring back with vigorous growth with a vengeance after severe cold conditions. I've even had intellectual geniuses who told me Torrey Pines will never survive if I planted them up on my mile high property in Anza, California. This proved an untruth as they are now over 30 foot in height.

    However if you want that definition then by all means stand by it. But you need to know and get it straight that I was not lying or exaggerating my own personal experiences. As far as definitions and interpretations go, I'm in agreement with the same observations as Bill Spencer who wrote the research piece on Washingtonia filifera for which I posted links on the subject. Here's his opinion on the generalizations made by many with regards zones.
     
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2009
  13. anza

    anza Active Member 10 Years

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    I suppose one of the reason I was intrigued by the research done on the report is that William Spencer seemed to also include the testimonial of older pioneer and Native American families. I lived in eastern Anza, California on Table Mountain. The year was 1980 and I was fortunate to meet several elderly members of Ford, Bahrman, and Cary families and also many of the Cahuilla, Santa Rosa and Ramona Indian Reservation familes. Most of these people were in their late 80s early 90s and many were born there. Asking them questions and picking their brains about life of the late 1800s to early 1900s was a bonus and treasure. I'm fascinated with the old historical ecosystems of any given area. I'm intrigued by the design of a pristine envirnoment and making practical application and replication of those conditions in any landscape plant community. I've actually benefitted by reading the dairy of Juan Baptista de Anza who was the spanish explorer who was the 1st european to discover the valley. Same with the writtings of John Muir writting about Yosemite Valley. Interestingly I had a friend who ran the prescribed burn projects in the San Jacinto Mtns and we were discussing John Muir's describing them racing on Horseback through the valley floor forests. The problem is that back in 1980, the area described could not be raced through because of the thick undergrowth from decades of fire suppression. Most healthy old growth looks much like a park condition.

    Anza Valley itself is a huge valley, yet not much is left or evident of the vast forests that were once present. I found out that the entire east, and northern end of the valley had a mixed oak/pine woodland. All of that is gone now. I was curious because many of the areas and roads are called Old Forest Road, Burnt Valley Road, etc. So these area names intrigued me and I asked about them. On top of Table Mountain around my house there are pockets of Coulter & Jeffrey Pines , remnants of what was before. The early pioneers did some really stupid things like cutting down these woods for grass to grow because they made a living off cattle ranching. Same with bringing in the Tamarisk (SaltCedar), it was brought in to the deserts for windbreaks for the railroad and farmers. What a huge mistake that was. It's screwed up most riparian woodland habitat of most all the western U.S. and wildlife don't necessarily like it or utilize it.

    For the moment I am no longer involved in the forestry or landscape business, but I am connected with an Institute here in Sweden that deals with ecological technologies. We have an IWONE 2009 Conference in Malmö, Sweden. My contribution is with studies done with replicating spring water for plant hydration. Much it my experience and research has been with observing natural occurences of energized and higher oxygenated water for which many inventions by several companies were created from the works of Austrian Forester Viktor Schauberger. The conference is next week and I'll get back with the highlights.

    I think for the moment I'm a bit burned out here on this thread so I'll give it a rest. I'm sure and have every confidence it will get interesting. I think with some of these forums when you pop in brand new and post, it's like a backyard where an old dog takes issue with you coming into his yard and staring down his bone. Then the hair stands up and the purpose of the thread can be lost. Honestly I never intended it to be like that.
     

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