Indigenous wild datepalm
Scientific name: Archontophoenix cunninghamiana
Cotton palm is a tree native to the southwestern United States (California and Arizona) and Mexico. The tree grows naturally in desert and arid regions, along streams and canyons, and in open areas where groundwater is present in southern California, western Arizona, and Baja California in Mexico.
Cotton palm is most widely grown palms in subtropical climates. California fan palm can grow 60 ft (18.3 m) tall with a crown spread of 15 ft (4.6 m). The massive grey trunk is barrel shaped and ringed with old leaf scars and may reach over 3 ft (0.9 m) in diameter at its widest point. The tree is hermaphrodite meaning it has both male and female organs.
The fruit of cotton palm can be made into jellies and drinks or dried and ground into a meal. The seed can be ground up with the dried fruit and then both are eaten as a porridge. The seed can also be ground into a powder and used for making bread. The leaves are used to make sandals, thatch roofs, and baskets while the stems are used to make cooking utensils.
Agricultural and wildlife benefits
Many animals live in close association with California palm. Amphibians such as the canyon tree frog and Pacific tree frog frequent the hydric zone and nearby boulders beneath palms. Various rodents use the palm's shag for cover. A species of rat snake (Elaphe rosalica) depends upon the shag for shelter and food (rodents). Oases attract numerous species
of birds because of the relative abundance of food, shelter, and nesting sites as compared to open desert. Hooded orioles use fibres from older palm leaves as nesting material, often constructing nests within the palms. Gray fox and various birds and rodents eat the fruit, and the fruit is the main component in the fall diet of coyote.