Brahea brandegeei (San José Hesper Palm) - This is a tall, slender, solitary-trunked palm that slowly grows to 125 feet tall. The 3 foot long grey-green leaves are held around the trunk forming a skirt. It takes full sun, and will tolerate aridity. It is very similar to Brahea armata with light green fronds and a very attractive trunk pattern formed by the leaf bases. It will take temperatures down to about 25 degrees F. The name Brahea, honors Tycho Brahe, a 16th-17th century Danish astronomer. The information provided on this page is based on the research we have conducted about this plant in our nursery library, from what we have found about it on reliable online sources, as well as from observations of our nursery crops of this plant as well as of plants growing in the nursery's garden and those in other gardens. We also will incorporate comments received from others and welcome getting feedback from anyone who may have additional information, particularly if this information includes cultural information that would aid others in growing Brahea brandegeei.
Native to Baja California (northwest Mexico), the heat loving Brahea Brandegeei is named after a renowned botanist who was long associated with the UC Berkeley Herbarium. Commonly referred to as the San Jose Hesper palm, this lanky solitary palm is known for its height of 40 to 60 feet, delicate petiole (leaf stalks) and light-green, palmate, 3 foot long leaves that often yellow toward their slightly drooping bifid tips, forming a wonderful, airy canopy with ample foliage.
This palm is vastly underappreciated compared to its close cousin, the Washingtonia robusta. While the two palms both have narrow trunks and take on a very similar appearance, the B. brandegeei is a cleaner, somewhat shorter tree. The leaf bases of the Brandegeei are not as tightly bound to the trunk as the Washingtonia and become self-cleaning on established specimens. The trunks of younger specimens can form a petticoat, but it is generally quite small and tidy. The inflorescence are also more discrete, and do not protrude beyond the leaves.
The San Jose Hesper palm is probably a better alternative to the Washington robusta and remains vastly underutilized in Southern California, especially when considering it is a cleaner, shorter and arguably more attractive specimen.