Given their strong association with the area, you might be surprised to learn that there is only one species of palm native to the entire state of California — the California fan palm (Washingtonia filifera), native to the southwestern United States and northwest Mexico. It is one of two recognized species in the genus Washingtonia, the other being the Mexican fan palm (Washingtonia robusta), native to western Sonora and Baja California Sur in northwestern Mexico. Both are among the palm tree species found in L.A., with the Mexican fan palm in particular reaching exceptional heights throughout the city.
Dr. Lorena Villanueva-Almanza, outreach coordinator at the California Botanical Society, specializes in the Washingtonia genus. As a plant taxonomist, her work focuses on understanding plant relationships and the many ways and names under which plants have been described across time — something she is currently engaged in for the Washingtonia. BHL is an invaluable resource for this work.