Florida Forestry Information
Palmae or Arecaceae
The Palm Family
 
The plants of the palmae family are unique in that the leaves are very closely spirally arranged.  The palms introduced here have leaf blades that are fan-like.  The segments of each blade as it emerges from the bud are very tightly folded.  By the time the blade has emerged from the bud, the segments have unfolded and fanned out.  3 species of palms are introduced here. 

 Click on the links below for introductions to some of the plants of this family:
 
saw palmetto
cabbage palm
scrub palm
 
Palmae/Arecaceae Family
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Serenoa repens 
saw palmetto 
 
saw palmetto, photo by Julie Anne Ferguson DemersHabit 

Saw palmetto is usually a horizontal plant.  It branches beneath the soil surface or it runs more or less along the surface.  The leafy extremities of the branches are at or just beneath the surface.  It commonly forms low thickets.  In some places it occurs in intricate systems of more or less continuous colonies.  Thickets can reach a height of 9-10 feet. 
 
Leaves 

Each leaf is quite long, each petiole reaching 3 feet in length or more.  Leaf petioles have 2 sharply serrated, sawteeth-like edges, thus the name of the plant.  The leaf blades are palmate, with 30 or more segments which fan out from the palman (undivided section of the leaf).  The hastula (a protuberance of the petiole at the base of the blade) occurs on both sides of the leaf blade and does not extend over the leaf blade.  This is an important distinguishing characteristic of this genus. 

Flowers 
 
The flowers are dioecious and appear on branched stalks that protrude a similar distance as that of the leaves.  These flowers are fragrant. 

Fruit 
 
Fruit is a black or bluish-black drupe that is variable in size and shape.  It is usually oblong or ellipsoid. 

Habitat 

Saw palmetto occurs in a variety of habitats.  It is often abundant in both well-drained and poorly-drained pine flatwoods.  It also grows on deep sands of longleaf pine-scrub oak ridges and hills.  It is found on the coastal plain from South Carolina to the Florida Keys; west to Louisiana. 
 
Use 

The drupe contains a compound that has been shown to reduce the effects of prostrate cancer. 
 

Click on the links below to see more information on and/or images of this tree (use the "Back" function to return here):
 
Query the USDA Plant Database
 
 
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Sabal palmetto 
cabbage palm 
 
cabbage palm, photo by Chris DemersHabit 

The cabbage palm is a tree, reaching 60-80 feet in height, 1-2 feet in diameter.  Numerous dead leaves oftem hang, skirting the trunk beneath the crown of living leaves.  The leaf bases usually persist for several years before crumbling and falling away.  This tree is the State Tree of Florida. 
 
Leaves 

There are usually about 40 living leaves on well-developed crowns.  Each leaf petiole is quite long and very stout, reaching 4-5 feet in length and 1-2 inches wide.  Leaf petioles are usually longer than the blades.  Leaf bases split as they expand, forming a v-shaped gap.  The hastula (a protuberance of the petiole at the base of the blade) prominently extends over the leaf base of the blade.  The hastula is very thick and rigid.  The leaf blades are palmate, with 40-90 or more segments.  Each mature leaf blade is 3-4 feet in length and about 5 feet wide. 

Flowers 
 
The flowers are bisexual and appear on branched stalks that protrude from the trunk similar distance as that of the leaves or more.  These flowers are fragrant. 
 
Fruit 
 
Fruit is a shiny black drupe, about 1/8-1/4 inch in diameter.  Each drupe contains one small, dark brown seed. 

Habitat 

The cabbage palm occurs principally near the coasts, on tidal flats, islands, or elevated places in marshes, beach swales, and in moist to wet hardwood hammocks.  It is found from southeastern North Carolina to southern Florida; also on the Bahaman Islands. 

Use 

This tree is commonly used as an ornamental. 
 

Click on the links below to see more information on and/or images of this tree (use the "Back" function to return here):
 
Query the USDA Plant Database
 
 
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Sabal etonia 
scrub palmetto 
 
Habit 

The scrub palm is a ground shrub with an S-shaped or contorted subterranean stem.  The crown bud is held well below the soil surface. 

 
Leaves 

There are few leaves per crown, 5-10 living leaves at a given time.  Petioles are 6-12 inches long, 1/4-1 inch wide.  The hastula extends over the base of the leaf.  Leaf blades are much smaller than those of the cabbage palm. 
 
Flowers 
 
The flowers are bisexual and appear on branched stalks that protrude from the trunk about half of or about the same as the distance as that of the leaves. 

Fruit 
 
Fruit is a shiny black drupe, about 1/8-1/4 inch in diameter.  Each drupe contains one small, dark brown seed. 

Habitat 

The scrub palm inhabits sand pine-oak scrub and dune scrub in Florida. 
 

Click on the links below to see more information on and/or images of this tree (use the "Back" function to return here):
 
Query the USDA Plant Database
 
Palmae Menu
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Glossary
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