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Wasowski, Sally and Andy
Sabal palmetto (Walt.) Lodd. ex J.A. & J.H. Schultes
Cabbage palmetto, Cabbage palm
Synonyms: Sabal jamesiana
USDA Symbol: sapa
USDA Native Status: Native to U.S.
Cabbage palm is a 30-40 ft. (sometimes taller) palm tree with fan-shaped leaves supported by hard, woody stalks. Cabbage palms are evergreens, shedding older leaves (stalk and all) as new ones emerge from the growing tip. The trunk is of uniform diameter from base to summit and mostly branchless. White flowers are numerous in large, much-branched, drooping clusters and are followed by shiny, black fruits. Medium-sized, spineless, evergreen palm with stout, unbranched trunk and very large, fan-shaped leaves spreading around top.
The trunks are used for wharf pilings, docks, and poles. Brushes and whisk brooms are made from young leafstalk fibers, and baskets and hats from the leaf blades. An ornamental and street tree, it is the northernmost New World palm and one of the hardiest. Formerly, plants were killed in order to eat the large leaf buds as a cabbagelike salad. The names are from the Spanish palmito, meaning small palm.
Plant CharacteristicsDuration: Perennial Habit: Tree Leaf:
Gray-Green Fruit: Size Class:
Bloom InformationBloom Color: White
Bloom Time: Jun , Jul
FL , GA , LA , NC , SC Native Distribution:
Coastal areas from NC south to FL, the Bahamas, and Cuba Native Habitat:
Brackish marshes; hammocks; coastal prairies USDA Native Status: L48(N)
Growing ConditionsWater Use:
Medium Light Requirement:
Part Shade CaCO3 Tolerance:
Low Soil Description:
Sandy soils. Conditions Comments:
Cabbage palm is not know to occur naturally over 75 miles from the coast. It is immune to salt spray. Old leaves brown and hang from the base of the crown. Unless they are trimmed away, this creates great habitat for desirable birds and undesirable rodents. The decision to trim or not to trim is a matter of preference. The tree
does fine either way. A delicacy known as swamp cabbage is produced from the bud
or embryonic leaves of the tree,
thus the common name. Removing the bud
kills the palm so this practice is discouraged. Trunk wounds also seriously harm or kill the tree.
An extremely important tree
to natural ecosystems, providing habitat to reptiles, insects, mammals, birds and even other plants – the seeds of which germinate in the damp, protected recesses of leaf stems and trunk. Use Food:
Tips of new leaves gathered and consumed in spring by indigenous people. Conspicuous Flowers:
PropagationDescription: Propagation is only from seed.
Seed Collection: Not Available
Seed Treatment: Not Available
Commercially Avail: yes
From the National Organizations Directory
According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is either on display or available from the following:
Tohono Chul Park, Inc.
- Tucson, AZGeorgia Native Plant Society
- Atlanta, GA
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Record Modified: 2009-06-03
Research By: TWC Staff