Chamaerops humilis, the European Fan Palm, is the sole species in the genus Chamaerops in the palm family Arecaceae. It is native to the western Mediterranean region, in southwestern Europe (Portugal, Spain, France, Italy and Malta) and northwest Africa (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia). It is the northernmost naturally occurring palm in the world, with the northernmost locality at Hyères-les-Palmiers, on the Mediterranean coast of southern France, at 43° 07' N , and on the island of Capraia off the Italian coast, at 43° 04' N.
It is a shrublike clumping palm, with several stems growing from a single base. The stems grow slowly and often tightly together, eventually reaching 2-5 m tall with a trunk diameter of 20-25 cm. It is a fan palm (Arecaceae tribe Corypheae), with the leaves with a long petiole terminating in a rounded fan of 10-20 leaflets; each leaf is up to 1-1.5 m long, with the leaflets 50-80 cm long.
Cultivated plant in Barcelona, SpainThe flowers are borne in dense, short clusters at the top of the stems; it is usually (but not invariably) dioecious with male and female flowers on separate plants. The fruit is a brown drupe 1-2 cm long. It also has numerous sharp needle-like spines produced on the leaf stems; these protect the stem growing point from browsing animals.
It is closely related to the genus Trachycarpus from Asia, differing in clumping habit (Trachycarpus only forms single stems without basal suckers), the spiny leaf stems (spineless in Trachycarpus), and in small details of the flower anatomy.
It is one of the hardier palms, tolerating winter frosts down to about −12°C, though it does require hot summers for good growth. The European Fan Palm is suited to a mediterranean climate with cool, moist winters and summer drought. It is often grown as an ornamental plant in southern Europe.