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Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture

Washingtonia (named for George Washington). Palmaceae, tribe Corypheae. Tall North American palms, making noble specimens for planting in California and similar regions.

Trunks clothed above with remains of the sheaths and petioles: lvs. terminal, ample, spreading, orbicular, flabellately plicate, lobed nearly to the middle; segms. induplicate, filamentous on the margins; rachis short; ligule large, appressed; petiole long, stout, plano-convex, very spiny along the edges: spadices long, copiously paniculately branched, glabrous: branches slender, flexuous; spathes long membranous, split, glabrous: fls. white: fr. small, ellipsoid, black drupe, with a thin and sweetish rather dry pulp; seed brown, oblong to oblong-ovate, flattened, excavated or wrinkled on the raphal face.—Species 3, now recognized, Ariz., S. Calif., and Mex.

Probably the oldest use of the generic name Washingtonia is by Rafinesque in 1818 for the umbelliferous plants commonly known as Osmorrhiza; it was also once proposed for the Sequoias; and the name Neo-washingtonia has been advanced for these palms. However, the use of Washingtonia for the palm is too well established to warrant the change. Parish, who has recently studied these palms, retains the name Washingtonia as the only tenable one, discarding the name Washingtonia when applied to the sequoias and also when used for the osmorrhizas on what he considers to be sound nomenclatorial grounds (Bot. Gaz. 44, pp. 408-434, 1907). His systematic treatment of the genus is followed in the present account.

The washingtonia that is best known in the wild is W. filifera var. robusta. The finest grove occupies the narrow palm canon for a mile or more, 22 miles east of Banning, Riverside County, California. This is the largest group of indigenous fan palms in the United States, and the only grove of important size on the Pacific side of the United States. The grove contains thousands of trees, some of them nearly 100 feet high. There are many young ones of all sizes and the older trees are still vigorous. Most of the canons of the desert bases of San Jacinto, according to Parish, contain these palms; and a few grow in the canon of the White Water River, which is the western limit of the species. The southern limit is probably Carrizo Creek, San Diego County, and the northern at Corn Springs in San Bernardino County. Except in trees protected in cultivation, old specimens are rarely seen bearing the great shaggy mass of dead hanging leaves, for they are burned off by Indians or take fire by accident; even in cultivated trees, the mane is usually cut away to give the plants a neater appearance but much of the characteristic beauty of the palm is then lost. Parish writes that "the functional life of a leaf is about one year. How long the dead leaves would remain attached to the trunk if undisturbed cannot be stated; probably for a very long period."

The washingtonias are much planted in California, thriving even in the climate about San Francisco Bay. In southern California they attain great size and comprise a characteristic feature of the landscape. They grow readily from seeds, but the trunks rise slowly. Two species are commonly planted, W. filifera var. robusta, with leaves bearing many filaments or threads on the edges and in the sinuses, and W. gracilis which is practically devoid of filaments.

The above text is from the Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture. It may be out of date, but still contains valuable and interesting information which can be incorporated into the remainder of the article. Click on "Collapse" in the header to hide this text.



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