Are Desert Fan Palms an ancient or introduced Plant in Moapa NV? 
Wild Palm groves

At Moapa Sacred warm springs
are slated for Removal with insufficient evidence in Moapa Nevada.

Current accepted official stance on the areas Washingtonia filifera Palms
is based on apparently anachronistic but popular anecdote
and unjustifiable dismissal of any contradictory anecdotes and investigation into alternate evidence.

By Spencer, Winton
© 1995-2011

Do YOU have memories - pictures - research - familial history or information which may affect current policies of Tax payer supported agencies in Clark County Nevada regarding Wild Palm groves in Moapa Nevada and surrounding area springs?

The current Official Stance of Area Agencies such as the Lake Mead Nat. Recreation Area and Nevada Fish and Game or Fish and Wildlife is that Washingtonia filifera palms in area warm springs are an introduced plant species. This stance is based upon a locally held anecdotal claim and upon some provably incorrectly posited botanical statements made in the 1900's by visiting area botanists.

What many people do NOT realize is that this palm has existed for over 50 million years and it's original range included what is now known as Oregon, Colorado, Nevada, California and Arizona. In modern times it is only found wild in widely separated remote southwestern U.S. desert sites usually having warm springs scattered in small colonies isolated from other small colonies throughout the southwest in similar warm winter climate regions.

IT is NOT a tropical palm - but in fact is a temperate palm with a desert affinity and one of the oldest plants in the deserts of the Western United States where it is almost exclusively found. IT is a palm native ONLY to U.S. southwestern deserts with a few exceptions south of the border in similar desert climates in Northern Mexico.

Another related variant of the filifera Palm may be found growing wild in similar areas with thermal springs and seeps south of the border but this variety is less cold hardy, thinner and taller. This other variety [called 'robusta'] [the one most widely grown as an ornamental in Las Vegas] is actually a very close Mexican relative which is likely not a truly separate species but rather a genetic variant.

Once again, Washingtonia filifera is the ONLY Palm NATIVE to the far western United states and is ONLY Palm tree found wild in Desert Areas of the southwest. IT is one of the OLDEST plants found in the Southwest. Cacti, for example [which we think of as the TRUE native plants of deserts ] - are only a couple of hundred-thousand years old or so - less than a fraction of the ancient age of the Washingtonia filifera. This ancient plants numbers were reduced to small pockets isolated from other groves by large distances. Colder winters of the last few million years have reduced it even further and now it is found ONLY in the desert regions of the SouthWest. It was used over the last 14,000 years by Uto-Aztecan speaking original people. The Cahuilla, The ToHono O'odham, the Chemehuevi and the Moapa are all Uto-Aztecan native americans. This palm has NOT traditionally been found in areas which typically flood - or in areas where stream beds change course frequently. Rather, it is found wild, almost exclusively in sheltered seeps or warm springs slightly above typical flood plains in the warmer desert regions of southwestern U.S. deserts.

Here are 5 pages of condensed INTRODUCTORY information meant to call into question the Current Plans of Area Agencies to remove these plants from area springs.

[for a 10 page more detailed intro Click here:]
[or for a 100 page article with references, footnotes, bibliography and photos click here:]

otherwise READ ON...or see links at bottom of this page.

Local agencies involved in plans for removal and or the condemnation of Washingtonia filifera Palms as a 'Nuisance' plant or as a NON-native species HAVE TO THIS DATE SHOWN no compelling scientific evidence to support their actions or proposed Actions NOR any compelling scientific argument which SUPPORTS the popular contention that this Palm is NOT native to the area and yet have TO DATE simultaneously APPARENTLY ignored all requests, documents, anecdotal reports, Native American statements and alternate Old-timer statements which have DIRECTLY CONTRADICTED their OFFICIALLY HELD favorite version that the palm is a nuisance plant or ornamental introduction from turn of the 20th century.

If you are an academic and would like a more exhaustive report on this palm Look at the links below and click on the exhaustive 100 page article in 6 parts, with footnotes, bibliography, charts, photos and references. Otherwise read this five page lay-person synopsis or the slightly more in depth 10 page introduction. Other supporting documents are also found in the links below. Otherwise keep reading and click: Next page at the bottom of this.


Area conservation agencies either ARE removing palms or PLAN to remove the Palms from large areas of Moapa Warm Springs and Lake Mead National Recreation Area springs BEFORE giving any attention to compelling arguments which call such pre-mature actions into SERIOUS question. The result of such removals would be Permanent destruction of a possibly very ancient heritage.

To DATE, area agencies appear to ignore all requests for more information and open discussion of the issue. Certain named Botanists made short visits to the Moapa area and may have made grossly under-researched statements which have possibly made the Palms target for these removals and it is these statements which appear largely responsible for the apparent current Local Agency BIAS against them and for the current 'official' stance that the palm is a NON-native european settler plant introduction. This version is being challenged by MUCH more persuasive and substantial documentation which indicates that the Palms most likely pre-date White European settlement to the area.

We challenge the removals and proposals of spending large amounts of TAX MONEY on these removals because of their utter failure to document and consider ONCE available but NOW dwindling and even PERMANENTLY LOST testimony of Local Native Americans which indicate definite pre-European Native American use of this palm. IT ALL MAKES SENSE. This document was written in 1995. SO WHY did they wait so long to start up the removal campaign again? Tragically, Now almost 15 years later those persons consulted in 1995 -who were already advanced in age- may not be available any longer for comment. This information was available to the agencies long ago... Did they deliberately wait so that the contradictory statements would be silent forever? We shudder! Let's hope not. Furthermore, in a time when budget constraints are considerably lacking for huge conservation projects, they are proposing projects that might cost hundreds of thousands of dollars (YOUR TAXES?) for a Palm - Removal campaign that is almost certainly scientifically groundless, and logically and fiscally unjustifiable.

HERE are some things YOU should KNOW - It is starting to seem like some would just as soon we forgot this information!

Local Native American Elders say that grandparents used these Palms and told them that Palms were here BEFORE White pioneers. Meanwhile agencies have completely ignored them - though this was brought to their attention long ago. Now the remaining few with this first hand knowledge are advancing in age. Some of them are already gone now in 2007, nearly 15 years after I brought this to their attention. THE Government agencies have completely ignored this information. Could it be because those Professionals involved locally are required by social rules to rub shoulders with the very Professionals who so cursorily and thereby incorrectly posited the accepted but clearly and provably flawed current information? The Academic community is quite small after all. It must be embarrassing to agree with someone who is NOT a professional and who is NOT a peer or academic while simultaneously publicly refuting the so-called accepted expert in the field who gets a grant from the Melon foundation to do the damaging half-baked work. Perhaps it would be even MORE embarrassing however to have Their names PERMANENTLY and irrevocably associated with a budget-busting- Palm - REMOVAL campaign -- ONLY to have it demonstrated years later that they were PROVABLY wrong and what they have done under their tenure is permanent removal of an ancient legacy. It would be prudent for those concerned locally to make sure names will be associated with such removal campaign and that if it is ever provably wrong, those Heads of those departments responsible will be publicly named and permanently linked in history to the destruction of such a legacy. Knowing that certain information was preferentially, publicly and willfully ignored by those who allocate public monies - might at some point, even be actionable.

HERE are some more facts and the gist of the story:
Locally those involved in removing the palms generally seem to use an under substantiated anachronistic locally known anecdote that local palms were brought to the area by Mendis Cooper who arrived in Moapa from Phoenix Arizona in 1893.

Although Mendis DID likely plant the first landscape palms around his homestead - his family have never claimed that he had to have brought the Palms from Phoenix, OR that he was the father of all the palms in the valley. In fact, The entire idea of transporting LIVE palms from Phoenix to the area in 1893 is difficult to believe. Seeds would be believable. However people do NOT normally plant SEEDS at 6 meter perfect intervals and then WAIT for those seeds to sprout. This is what he would have most likely have done - since his plants are all in a straight line along the front of the original property! So - if he instead planted PLANTS... where did he get his plants. IT is highly doubtful he procured them from Mesa or Phoenix [as further reading will demonstrate] - a local source is far more likely. A source NOT known to many locals of the lower Moapa valley Note: the UPPER moapa valley was nearly 40 miles distant and owned by unrelated interests.

The Coopers only say that Mendis was the first to plant palms in the Valley and this is not disputed. What is disputed is that he cannot possibly be credited with the much more massive plantings nearly 40 miles away.

To continue to read this abridged 5 page synopsis,

Links to Reports:
Articles about Moapa Palms and Related articles:




Rebuttals to existing Articles re: W. filifera:

Links to Moapa tribal Info: