Sabal palmetto

Common name

cabbage palm, sabal palmetto, sabal palm

Description

Stems: Solitary, upright stems to 20 m tall and to 35 cm diameter. Leaves: Old leaf bases often persistent, but can fall away to leave a smooth stem. Costapalmate leaves with a strongly arching costa. Leaf segments rigid, with numerous fibers along the segment margins. Petiole bases split. Flowers and fruits: Inflorescences equaling or exceeding the leaves in length, branched to three orders. Flowers creamy white, bisexual. Ripe fruit black, spherical to a slightly flattened sphere (pear-shaped), 8-14 mm diameter, usually about the size and shape of a medium blueberry.

Diagnostic features

Field: Costapalmate leaf and a smooth petiole without teeth or spines. Inflorescences arching, equaling or exceeding the leaves in length. Fruits black, spherical to a slightly flattened sphere in shape, 8-14 mm diameter, about the size and shape of a medium blueberry.

May be confused with

Sabal minor, in that a young Sabal palmetto can grow many years before its stem rises above ground. A young S. palmetto can be distinguished from S. minor, which has a true underground stem, by the prominence of the curved shape of the S. palmetto costapalmate leaf and the abundant thread-like fibers found on the margins of the sinuses between its leaf segments.

Distribution

Native to Bahamas, Cuba and southeastern United States from North Carolina to Florida

Additional comments

If the palm has been severely pruned, with only 2-3 leaves remaining, inflorescences may droop well below the leaves.

This palm is the state "tree" of South Carolina and Florida.

Scientific name

Sabal palmetto (Walter) Lodd. ex Schult. & Schult.f.

Family

Arecaceae/Palmae

Synonyms

Chamaerops palmetto (Walter) Michx.

Corypha palmetto Walter

Inodes schwarzii O.F.Cook

Inodes palmetto (Walter) O.F.Cook

Sabal bahamensis (Becc.) L.H.Bailey

Sabal jamesiana Small

Sabal parviflora Becc.

Sabal schwarzii (O.F.Cook) Becc.

Sabal viatoris L.H.Bailey

Last Updated May 2014

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