I recently spent some highly enjoyable time with a friend exploring groves of Desert Fan Palms in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in San Diego County. Tucked into canyons in the foothills of the mountains, these striking trees seemed out of place. Nothing else is as tall and lush as they and the cool microhabitat made by their shade provides a welcome escape from the sun and heat that feels almost magical. I wanted to know more about them.
So I was thrilled when I found a book called “Desert Palm Oasis” (Nature Trails Press, Palm Springs, CA: 2010). The author is James W. Cornett, an expert on Desert Fan Palms who spent over 25 years studying them and who published more than three dozen technical papers about them. The book is short, at only 75 pages, but lushly illustrated with the author’s photographs, and is dense with information. Topics covered are lifecycle, ecology, animal associations, use by Native Americans, and more.
Much to my surprise, he also overturned the conventional wisdom on the history of Fan Palms and their origins, and that’s what fascinated me the most.