Gardening Magazine

Plant of the Week: Washingtonia Robusta

By Davis Landscape Architecture @DavisLandArch


Washingtonia robusta leaf (14/01/2012, London)

Washingtonia robusta leaf (14/01/2012, London)

Position: Full Sun

Flowering period: Late spring to early summer

Soil: Well drained

Eventual Height: 20m

Eventual Spread: 12m

Hardiness: 9a – 11

Family: Arecaceae

Washingtonia robusta is a evergreen, columnar, bushy palm tree. The fan shaped leaf fronds are rounded, palmatley dividing into linear segments, are up to 1.5m across, with gray green margins. The leaf stems (or petiole in this instance) grow mostly upright and and have vicious teeth along its length and are up to 1m long. As the frond die they turn light brown and droop down, cloaking the trunk. The trunk on a young tree is red/ bronze in color. On a mature tree it is gray in colour, ringed with closely set leaf scars and will achieve a diameter of up to 30cm. The flowers extend on stalks beyond foliage , are up to 3m long, the individual flowers are small and pink/ orange. The fruits of the tree are a drupe and are up to 8mm across and mature to a black color. The roots give rise to some surface roots.

Washingtonia robusta (14/01/2012, London)

Washingtonia robusta (14/01/2012, London)

Washingtonia robusta, commonly known as the Mexican Fan Palm, Thread Palm or Mexican Washingtonia, is native to Mexico. The fruit, fiber of the leaves, the leaves and stems were used in various ways by Native Americans.

The etymological root of the binomial name Washingtonia is derived from the name of the US President, George Washington. Robusta is from the  Latin meaning ‘strong’.

The landscape architect may find Washingtonia robusta useful as a specimen tree with an  architectural form. Once established this tree is drought tolerant. It is tolerant of maritime conditions. This palm can tolerate extreme heat.


Washingtonia robusta trunk (14/01/2012, London)

Washingtonia robusta trunk (14/01/2012, London)

Ecologically, W. robusta  may provide nesting sites for birds in the dead leave attached to the tree. Mammals and birds may eat the fruit.

W. robusta prefers moist, fertile, well-drained soils. It tolerates most pH of soil. It will not tolerate waterlogged soils.

W. robusta requires little maintenance. The dead hanging leaves may be removed to give a clean trunk to this tree.


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