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An evergreen shrub forming a dense cluster of growths close to the ground and giving a hemispherical mass of foliage; or a small tree with a stem 6 to 8 ft high, about 5 in. in diameter, clothed with stiff dark fibres near the top, and crowned with a rounded head of leaves. Leaves fan-shaped, of a greyish green, split nearly to the base into awl-shaped segments varying much in length. In starved wild specimens they may be only 4 in. long, but in cultivated ones 18 in. The basal part of the leaf is folded like a half-shut fan. The leaf-stalk also varies in length from a few inches to 3 or 4 ft, is flat above, rounded beneath, and armed (often formidably) with forward-pointing, stiff, sharp spines 1⁄8 to 1⁄2 in. long. In their young state the leaves are more or less furnished with a loose pale wool, especially at the back. The small yellow flowers are crowded on a stiff panicle 4 to 6 in. high, clasped at the base in the early stages by a large bract. Bot. Mag., t. 2152.
This palm is not so hardy as Trachycarpus fortunei which has lived in perfect health at Kew in the open air for very many years, but it succeeds in S. Hants and S. Sussex and thence westwards. There are good examples in the public garden at Penzance and at Logan in Wigtownshire. Introduced in 1731 by Philip Miller.
It is interesting as the only palm native of Europe. At the present time it is most abundant, perhaps, in Spain, but it occurs also in Italy, Sardinia, Sicily, and across the Mediterranean on the coasts of Algeria and Morocco. At one time it was wild on the French Riviera, but it disappeared apparently about the middle of the nineteenth century and is now regarded as extinct there. Willdenow considered it existed in two varieties: one forming clean trunks (it has been stated sometimes 20 ft high), the other low and with clustered stems. Both types are found at Gibraltar and often a tall stem will have a cluster of dwarf growths at its base. The dwarf state may be due to starved, dry conditions at the root. It grows best in a loamy soil in a sheltered but sunny spot.