Desert Fan Palms Native plants in Nevada?

bajaboy at bajaboy at
Mon Dec 9 11:31:22 EST 1996

This message is simply to get the word out that recent research has shown
that the Washingtonia filifera Desert Fan Palm is almost certainly native
and historically extant in the southern part of the State of Nevada in 
certain locales along the Rivers of the Colorado drainage.  Specifically,
the Muddy and the Virgin Rivers.

Queries to the eldest of the Moapa Paiute bands of Native Americans near 
Moapa Nevada have revealed that they still have memories of their 
grandparents and elders using parts of the  plant for food, building and 
basket materials among other things.  The springs at Warm Springs are 
considered sacred and are the home of over 2600 Washingtonia filifera 
(mature).  Previously faulty or cursory research has credited these palms 
existence in this area to an early settler from Phoenix in 1893 named 
Mendis Cooper.  However extensive research from four respected fellows at 
the UNIV AZ Tucson, as well as other research has shown that no W filifera 
existed in Phoenix until after Coopers' move to Overton, NV and his demise 
in 1903.  There were of course palms in Castle Creek but due to other 
circumstances it is highly unreasonable to suggest that Cooper obtained 
any seeds there.

A full group of research articles may be located on the world wide web 
which is too exhaustive to repost here.  For those who would like to visit 
that completely NON-COMMERCIAL INFORMATION ONLY SITE THE address or url 
(information and 
research only: )  
(information only...) 

For those of you who are concerned with this information but do not want 
to visit that site I can only give you the basics of this research.

Simple math extrapolating using the age of the eldest Paiute (76 years) 
and the earliest possible date for the possibility of seed production from 
Mendis' original nine seeds planted in a straight line over 38 miles from 
the oasis at Warm Springs (given the conditions were optimum) (15 years 
 ...see research) ...would bring the earliest date for the possibility to 
have second generation seedling plants in Warm Springs to 1908.  In order 
for Evelyn Samalar and others (Paiute) to have watched their grandparents 
grinding seed from those second generation plants the extended date would 
have to be no earlier than:  1923.   

If we establish that Evelyn was no more than 5 years of age  at the time 
she recalls her grandparents grinding this seed and building houses etc. 
(Since she said she was a very small child at the time)  The second 
generation "seedlings" could only have been producing third generation 
seed... (The only seed the Paiutes could have been using if the Mendis 
Cooper story were correct)...for two years under the most optimum 
conditions.  I can positively verify through photographs that the area 
around the springs although abundant in water is NOT optimum with respects 
to quickly maturing or 15 year maturity time frames.  The ground is 
extremely compacted and there are hundreds of palms in the area which have 
literally remained identical in height for over twenty years never 
reaching maturity.

Even had they reached maturity, the reservation was (and is) about 7 miles 
 distant from the Palm groves and at the early part of this century were 
completely on White ranch property.  

There is ample evidence showing how quickly the Moapa adapted to new white 
settler food at the mission in Las Vegas.  The Mormons at Warm Springs and 
Overton never saw any use for this palm and in fact referred to it as a 

Meanwhile, just downstream on the river toward Baja, the regular trading 
partners of the Moapa around the lower Colorado ...both the Papago Tahono 
O'otam and the Agua Caliente bands of Cahuilla, had used the palm 
extensively for centuries.  This is also the center of distribution for 
this palm.  

Petroglyphs in the Overton area near the groves link the aborignal peoples 
with groups in Northern Mexico which also used the palm.  In fact this 
palm was so central to their culture that their legends say that their 
first ansectors were palm trees.

Even more striking:  the Cahuilla are Shoshoni speaking peoples as are the 
Moapa Paiutes. Another similarity is that the Moapa did not share the 
hunting traditions of the Paiute groups to the north and east but rather 
appeared to more follow the farming traditions of the pueblo just as the 
Cahuilla.  The Cahuilla are the main Palm Culture around Palm Springs CA.

Since the Moapa were in the area for a minimum of 900 years it is highly 
unreasonable to speculate that they only learned to use palms and palm 
products within two years (being liberal) of their alledged first 
introduction to this plant from whites who so no value in it.  

Especially while on the other hand the same researchers are trying to 
suggest that the Moapa traded and dealt with the Cahuilla and lower 
Colorado people for at least 900 years...a people who not only spoke their 
language and shared similar customs...but also a people who used the palm 
in every aspect of their lives...and yet never thought to use this palm?

The idea is ludicrous and the conclusion is that this palm is either a 
native plant in Southern Nevada Colorado drainage springs, or it is very 
anciently adventive in the least. 

Thank you for listening!

William A Spencer III
bajaboy at

-------------------==== Posted via Deja News ====-----------------------     Search, Read, Post to Usenet

More information about the Plantbio mailing list