Chamaerops L.
  • Sp. Pl.: 1187 (1753) 

Notes: Distribution: W. & C. Medit.

General Description

Dwarf, rarely moderate, clustering, acaulescent or shrubby, armed, pleonanthic, polygamous or dioecious palm. Stem ± erect, clothed with very close, persistent petiole bases and fibrous sheaths, eventually becoming ± bare. Leaves induplicate, palmate, marcescent; sheath disintegrating into a mass of fine fibres; petiole elongate, slender, adaxially flattened or slightly rounded, abaxially rounded or angled, densely covered with caducous white tomentum, armed along the margins with robust, bulbous-based spines pointing toward the leaf tip; adaxial hastula well developed, ± acute, abaxial hastula poorly developed; blade divided to 2/3 – 3/4 the radius into single-fold segments, the segments further divided to ca. 1/2 – 2/3 along the abaxial folds, folds longitudinally striate, tips ± rounded or pointed, abaxially sparsely to densely covered with caducous tomentum, midribs prominent abaxially, transverse veinlets obscure. Inflorescences solitary, interfoliar, very short, branching to 2 orders, staminate, pistillate, and hermaphroditic inflorescences similar; peduncle very short, oval in cross-section; prophyll conspicuous, tubular, somewhat inflated, laterally 2-keeled, splitting apically into 2 triangular lobes, covered with dense tomentum especially along keels; peduncular bracts absent; rachis short, but longer than the peduncle; rachis bracts inconspicuous, the proximal enclosed within the prophyll; first-order branches bearing minute slender bracts; rachillae short, very crowded, glabrous. Flowers solitary, spirally arranged, borne on short tubercles subtended by minute bracts; abnormalities in all floral parts frequent; sepals 3, triangular, low, glabrous, united at the base; petals 3, similar in staminate, pistillate, and hermaphroditic flowers, imbricate, distally triangular, united at the very base; stamens 6, united by their broad triangular filaments to form a conspicuous staminal ring folded in young stages, much expanded at anthesis, anthers yellow, oblong, medifixed, latrorse; staminodes similar to stamens but less-well-developed filaments and empty anthers; carpels 3, distinct, follicular, glabrous, with conspicuous recurved apical stigmas, ovule hemianatropous, attached basally; pistillodes 1–3 minute carpels, or absent. Pollen ellipsoidal, bi-symmetric or slightly asymmetric, or infrequently, oblate triangular; aperture comprising 2 parallel distal sulci, narrowly separated by an ectexinous bridge, less frequently a trichotomosulcus; ectexine tectate densely perforate or finely and densely reticulate, outer aperture margins similar, tectum between sulci sometimes similar or psilate-perforate; infratectum columellate; longest axis 27–31 µm; post-meiotic tetrads tetrahedral [1/1]. Fruit developing from 1–3 carpels, product of each carpel globose to oblong, ellipsoidal, rich brown, pale-dotted, stigmatic remains apical; epicarp smooth, mesocarp thin, ± fleshy, rich in butyric acid, endocarp scarcely developed. Seed globose to ellipsoidal, basally attached; endosperm ruminate, also with a conspicuous lateral intrusion of seed coat; embryo lateral. Germination remote-tubular; eophyll entire, narrow, plicate. Cytology: 2n = 36, or 36 ±1, or 36 ±2.

Diagnostic Description

Dwarf dioecious fan palm of the Mediterranean region, with stems covered with leaf bases; leaves generally rather stiff; inflorescence with a single large bract. Fruit reddish brown smelling of vomit.


Stem (Schweingruber 1990), leaf (Tomlinson 1961), roots (Seubert 1997), floral (Morrow 1965).


Widely cultivated and very variable, particularly in leaf form and fruit shape. It is found on sandy or rocky ground, usually near the sea but up to 600 m altitude or more on coastal hills, usually acaulescent in the wild, but in the absence of burning, producing a well-developed trunk as in cultivated specimens.


One species, Chamaerops humilis, native to coastal areas of the western Mediterranean, both in Europe and North Africa, becoming rarer eastwards to Malta.


Fibre has been used for cordage and woven articles. Forms with abnormal leaves have been selected in cultivation; one such in the garden of R.O. Douglas, California, bears leaves with the blade divided between as well as along the folds.

Common Names

European fan palm, windmill palm.

Distribution Map

  • Native distribution
  • Introduced distribution
Found in
  • Africa Northern Africa Algeria
  • Libya
  • Morocco
  • Tunisia
  • Europe Southeastern Europe Italy
  • Sicilia
  • Southwestern Europe Baleares
  • Corse
  • France
  • Portugal
  • Sardegna
  • Spain
Introduced into
  • Southern America Caribbean Dominican Republic

Included Species


  • 1 J. Dransfield & N. Uhl & C. Asmussen & W.J. Baker & M. Harley & C. Lewis, Genera Palmarum. The evolution and classification of palms. 2008
  • 2 Govaerts, R. & Dransfield, J. (2005). World Checklist of Palms: 1-223. The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
  • 3 Govaerts, R. (1999). World Checklist of Seed Plants 3(1, 2a & 2b): 1-1532. Continental Publishing, Deurne.

 Information From

Palmweb - Palms of the World Online
Palmweb 2011. Palmweb: Palms of the World Online. Published on the internet Accessed on 21/04/2013
  • A Content licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License
  • B
eMonocot. (2010, 1st November). Retrieved Wednesday, 8th February, 2012, from
  • C Content licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License
World Checklist of Selected Plant Families
WCSP 2014. 'World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. Facilitated by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Published on the Internet; Retrieved 2011 onwards
  • D See You may use data on these Terms and Conditions and on further condition that: The data is not used for commercial purposes; You may copy and retain data solely for scholarly, educational or research purposes; You may not publish our data, except for small extracts provided for illustrative purposes and duly acknowledged; You acknowledge the source of the data by the words "With the permission of the Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew" in a position which is reasonably prominent in view of your use of the data; Any other use of data or any other content from this website may only be made with our prior written agreement.