Sabal Palm (Sabal palmetto)

Educational Story

The Sabal Palm, Sabal palmetto, is the official state tree of Florida and South Carolina. It grows in sandy, well drained soil in part shade. Its singular trunk can reach 30 feet in height. Fan-shaped leaves, palm fronds, grow from the top of the tree from a single apical meristem, which is the heart of palm. Older palm fronds hang lower as they die off, and dead ones eventually break off and fall to the ground. The small, white scented flowers grow in long stalks, and are an important resource for a wide array of pollinators during the period of bloom. Birds, squirrels, raccoons, bears and deer, all eat the small black fruits. Hearts of palm are sometimes harvested from the center of the trunk to make “swamp cabbage.” The tree is killed in the harvesting process because the single meristem has been removed. The Cherokee used to make baskets from the palm fronds, and the Seminole and Miccosukee use the Sabal Palm fronds, as well as the saw palmetto fronds, for thatch roofing material. It is a commonly used landscape plant throughout Florida because it transplants easily, is drought tolerant, and is an attractive landscape feature.  It’s also an excellent pollinator plant!

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Gardening Facts

Scientific Name: Sabal palmetto
Common Name: Cabbage palm, Palmetto, Sabal palm
Description of facts and concepts: Florida State Tree
Seed or division information: Seed; planted with moisture and high temperatures. Germinates in about 3 weeks.
Date of flower’s bloom (Month and week): June, July
Ecoregion: Mesic Flatwoods, Scrubby Flatwoods
Color of Flower: White
Height: 30 feet and up
Spread: 6-18 inches wide (trunk)
Family: Arecaceae (Palm)
Soil Type: Base to Acidic Acidic to basic
Soil: Dry to Wet Sandy, well-drained
Light: Sun to Shade Part Shade
Zone 8A-11B