The Cold Hardy Windmill Fan Palm tree originated on the island of Chusan off the east coast of China, and the Windmill palm tree is often called the Chinese or Chusan Fan Palm. Robert Fortune smuggled Windmill palm plants from China into the Kew Horticultural Gardens and into the Royal garden of Prince Albert of England in 1849 after the Opium Wars of China ended. The Windmill Palm tree was named in Latin, Trachycarpus fortunei, after Robert Fortune, and after 158 years, in the year 2007, these Windmill Fan Palm trees are still growing gracefully as a distinguished, exotic, rare tree at Kew Gardens, a palm of noble bearing.
Typically the Windmill Palm tree has a history of surviving over 150 years of age in the Western World at a height of 40 feet, but accurate reports of Windmill Palm trees, native to the Island of Chusan in Eastern China, do not exist in translated texts, but conceivably could reach 100 feet in height. The rapid growth of Western influence on the development of China will undoubtedly reveal many more interesting botanical, developmental facts concerning the Windmill Palm tree in the near future.
From Kew Gardens in England, the Windmill Palm tree was spread throughout Europe, from the Mediterranean hot climates of Italy and Greece to a cold hardy testing ground in the landscape gardens of Switzerland and Bulgaria, where the Windmill Palm trees have remarkably survived, leaves even remaining green when covered with ice or snow.
Although most Windmill Palm nursery growers are conservative in recommending the Windmill Palm tree planting to be restricted to growing in zones 8-10; other Windmill Palm Nursery growers recommend and guarantee this rare palm tree to grow in zones 3-10. There has been a rush by Northern nursery retailers to plant Windmill Palm trees for the home gardener, who wants that tropical look and accent around his pool or patio. The Windmill Palm tree is planted at plant nurseries from seed, where they grow about one foot each year. The slow growth of the Windmill Palm is partially responsible for its cold hardiness. Another characteristic that is inherently cold hardy is that the fibers that cover the trunk insulate the growing center of the tree. The brown-gray color of the burlap-like fibers cover the trunk like a wool covering in winter, and the dark color attracts the warmth of the sunlight. A coarse green wax covers the leaves and stems to make the Windmill Palm tree even more cold hardy.