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SABAL palmetto

Image of Sabal palmetto

Forest & Kim Starr

Family

Arecaceae

Botanical Name

SABAL palmetto

Plant Common Name

Blue Palmetto, Florida Cabbage Palm, Sabal Palm

General Description

With its immense fan-shaped leaves, its stout straight wind-resistant trunk, and its exceptional cold hardiness, this slow-growing, medium-size palm is both beautiful and adaptable. Native to the Southeast United States from coastal North Carolina to Florida, it also occurs on the Bahamas.

The bold, deep green to yellowish green, evergreen fronds are divided into 60 or more long, arching, blade-like segments, that radiate like the spokes of an umbrella. The segments bear narrow, drooping, ribbon-like filaments at their base. The fronds are borne atop the trunk on long, straight or slightly arching stems ("petioles"), forming a compact, rounded crown. A "skirt" of drooping older leaves sometimes fringes the base of the crown. Plants are initially trunkless, developing a trunk at about 10 years old. Trunks of young plants and the upper trunks of older specimens are cross-hatched with the protruding, wedge-shaped petiole bases ("boots") of fallen leaves. Epiphytic plants such as Spanish moss sometimes grown in the boots. Typically, the petiole bases eventually detach, leaving ring-like scars on the gray trunk. Some older specimens retain their boots to the base of the trunk. Large, arching, branching clusters of small fragrant ivory flowers appear within the crown in late spring or summer, followed by small oval fleshy fruits that ripen black. Bees visit the flowers, and birds and other wildlife eat the fruits.

Grow Florida cabbage palm in full to partial sun in any almost any soil - damp or dry, acidic or alkaline. Plants grow faster and develop a trunk earlier in moist relatively fertile soil. This palm fares poorly in cool summers or cold wet winters. Use it to line an avenue or to create a tropical grove or accent. Remove only brown leaves from the canopy; this palm withstands hurricane winds and does not benefit from "hurricane pruning."

Since seedlings do not transplant well, purchase container-grown seedlings. Trunked specimens are sometimes transplanted when soils are warm, following removal of the fronds and roots. Persistent boots are often sawed off to reveal the trunk.

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    12 - 7

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    8 - 15

  • Sunset Zone

    H1, H2, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24

  • Plant Type

    Palm or Cycad

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun, Partial Sun, Partial Shade

  • Height

    20'-80' / 6.1m - 24.4m (35)

  • Width

    12'-22' / 3.7m - 6.7m

  • Bloom Time

    Late Spring, Early Summer, Summer

  • Native To

    Southeastern United States, Caribbean

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Acidic, Neutral, Alkaline

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Soil type

    Loam, Sand

  • Tolerances

    Drought, Salt

  • Growth Rate

    Slow

  • Water Requirements

    Drought Tolerant, Average Water

  • Habit

    Upright/Erect

  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Showy

  • Flower Color

    Ivory

  • Fruit Color

    Black

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Green, Blue Green, Yellow Green

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Green, Blue Green, Yellow Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Green, Blue Green, Yellow Green

  • Foliage Color (Winter)

    Green, Gray Green, Yellow Green

  • Bark Color

    Sandy Brown, Gray

  • Fragrant Flowers

    Yes

  • Fragrant Fruit

    No

  • Fragrant Foliage

    No

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    No

  • Flower Petal Number

    Single

  • Repeat Bloomer

    No

  • Showy Fruit

    No

  • Edible Fruit

    No

  • Showy Foliage

    Yes

  • Foliage Texture

    Bold

  • Foliage Sheen

    Matte

  • Evergreen

    Yes

  • Showy Bark

    No

Special Characteristics

  • Bark Texture

    Fissured

  • Usage

    Feature Plant, Street Trees, Tropical

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    No

  • Invasive

    No

  • Attracts

    Birds

  • Self-Sowing

    Yes