Chamaerops humilis

Chamaerops humilis

The dwarf palm (Chamaerops humilis L., 1753), or San Pietro palm, is a species typical of the Mediterranean scrub of the Arecaceae family and the only species of the genus Chamaerops.

Systematics –
From a systematic point of view, the dwarf palm belongs to the Eukaryota Domain, Kingdom Plantae, Magnoliophyta Division, Liliopsida Class, Arecales Order, Arecaceae Family, Coryphoideae Subfamily, Livistoneae Tribe, Rhapidinae Sub-tribe and then to the Genus Chamaerops and to the Specie C. humilis.

Etymology –
The name of the genus comes from two Greek words: “khamai”, in Latin “chamae”; that is, small, dwarf, prostrate, and from “rhops”; that is a shrub, a bush, referring to the bearing of the plant. The specific epithet comes from the Latin “humilis, -is, -e” (“humus”); that is, earth, from which the Italian name “humble”, takes up the meaning of the Greek name.

Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
Chamaerops humilis is widespread throughout the western Mediterranean from southern Portugal to Malta and from Morocco to Libya. In Italy it is especially common in Sicily, Calabria and Sardinia and is found in the western coastal strip, from Sicily to central-southern Tuscany (promontory of Piombino), including some islands of the Tyrrhenian Sea (Capraia, Elba, Cerboli, Palmaiola). To the north, it is present in some wrecks in the territory of the Portofino Park (Liguria). It is a typical element of the most thermophilous band of the Mediterranean scrub.

Description –
Chamaerops humilis is an evergreen shrub nanophanophytop and is a shrub-like, acaulous or multi-stemmed plant, up to 2 m tall, sometimes even 6-8 m in cultivation, covered by fibers and the remains of leaf petioles. The leaves are persistent, fan-shaped, stiff and straight, with long and thin petioles with lateral thorns and lamina divided into 16-20 pointed segments: The flowers, unisexual or hermaphroditic, are small, yellow, gathered in dense panicles that originate between the leaf petioles, wrapped by a bivalve spathe. The fruits are fleshy, ovoid, yellow-reddish, 2-3 cm long, not edible.

Cultivation –
Chamaerops humilis is grown mainly for ornamental purposes, especially in warm areas near the coast; prefers sunny exposures and fears intense cold. In a natural environment it grows mainly on rocky or sandy soils. It is a plant that adapts however to land of various kinds. Plant that endures drought very well, when it is cultivated for ornamental purposes it must however be irrigated to improve its development and appearance.

Uses and Traditions –
The oldest plant of the Botanical Garden of Padua is a specimen of Chamaerops humilis, planted in 1585, known as “Palma di Goethe”, as the illustrious poet, who saw it during his trip to Italy in 1786, remained fascinated. The apical shoot is used in food as cabbage-palm, especially in the countries of North Africa, but also in Sicily where it is known as ciafagghiuni. The fruits are astringent and very rich in tannins while the leaves due to their fibrousness were once used for the manufacture of various tools such as brooms, baskets, hats, fans, mats, ropes, etc. The Chamaerops humilis, as well as for purpose ornamental, is an important element in forest use as it is very effective against erosion and desertification and is generated after fires by issuing new discards.

Preparation Mode –
The bud, whitish and medullose, is edule and was once used in times of famine to replace the potato or to make cakes.

Guido Bissanti

Sources
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– Treben M., 2000. Health from the Pharmacy of the Lord, Advice and experience with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Publisher
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora of Italy, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (edited by), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.

Warning: Pharmaceutical applications and alimurgical uses are indicated for informational purposes only and do not in any way represent a medical prescription; there is therefore no liability for their use for curative, aesthetic or food purposes.



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