Serenoa repens

Common name

saw palmetto


Stems: Clumping, underground or creeping stems (0.5-2 m tall) (rarely growing upright 6.0-7.5 m tall). Leaves: Old leaf bases persistent, with leaf sheaths disintegrating over time into reddish-brown fibers. Petioles armed with sharp teeth along the margins, especially toward the base. Hastula papery; adaxial hastula rounded to deltoid; abaxial, semicircular and often split into two lobes. Palmate leaves, sometimes twisted with slight folds, as if the leaf blade were too large for the petiole. Leaf segments are rigid, divided into segments with split tips. Leaves are usually yellowish green, but a blue-green form is occasionally found. Flowers and fruits: Inflorescences, branched, shorter than the leaves, with fragrant, bee-attracting, perfect, white to pale-yellow flowers. When ripe, fruits are ovoid, blue-black drupes to 2.5 cm long, with a rancid odor.

Diagnostic features

Field: Creeping or underground stem (occasionally curving upward, above ground); saw-toothed petiole; palmate leaf; ripe fruit colored blue-black, about 2.5 cm long.

May be confused with

Sabal species: Sabal sp. have smooth petioles (never armed) and costapalmate leaves with an obvious "arrow" jutting into the leaf blade. Serenoa repens leaves are sometimes unarmed when young, but have a blunt hastula that extends less than 2 cm into the leaf blade.


Native to the southeastern United States from Virginia to Mississippi

Additional comments

Stems sometimes grow upright.

Scientific name

Serenoa repens (W.Bartram) Small




Brahea serrulata (Michx.)H.Wendl.

Chamaerops serrulata Michx.

Corypha repens W.Bartram

Sabal serrulata (Michx.)Nutt. ex Schult. & Schult.f.

Last Updated May 2014