Washingtonia filifera (California fan palm) grows up to 23 m (exceptionally 30 m) tall in good growing conditions. The leaves have a petiole up to 2 m long, bearing a fan of leaflets 1.5-2 m long. Inflorescence to 5 m long; flowers white; fruit oval. When the leaves die they bend downwards and form a skirt around the trunk. The shelter that the skirt creates provides a microhabitat for many invertebrates. Washingtonia filifera can live from 80 to 90 years and its name honors George Washington, the first President of the United States.

The plants grow best in warmer Mediterranean climates with winter rain and dry summers. Specimens outside of Mediterranean climates do not grow as large, rarely exceeding 15 m. The plants are tolerant of some frost and the species is reasonably hardy; it will survive temperatures of -10 °C with minor damage, and established plants have survived brief periods of temperatures as low as -12 °C but with severe damage to the foliage.