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Sabal palmetto (Cabbage palmetto)
Wasowski, Sally and Andy

Sabal palmetto

Sabal palmetto (Walter) Lodd. ex Schult. & Schult. f.

Cabbage Palmetto, Cabbage Palm

Arecaceae (Palm Family)

Synonym(s): Corypha palmetto, Inodes schwarzii, Sabal jamesiana


USDA Native Status: L48 (N)

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."


From the Image Gallery

10 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Tree
Leaf Retention: Evergreen
Fruit Type: Drupe
Size Notes: Up to about 100 feet tall, often much shorter.
Leaf: Gray-Green

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: White
Bloom Time: Jun , Jul


USA: 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

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Part Shade
CaCO3 Tolerance: Low
Soil Description: Sandy soils.
Conditions Comments: Cabbage palm is not known to occur naturally more than 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.


Use Wildlife: 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: yes


Description: Propagation is only from seed.
Commercially Avail: yes

National Wetland Indicator Status

Status: FAC FACW
This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1 (Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here for map of regions.

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Tohono Chul Park, Inc. - Tucson, AZ
Georgia Native Plant Society - Atlanta, GA
Wellspring Organic Farm and Education Center - West Bend, WI


Bibref 1620 - Gardening with Native Plants of the South (Reprint Edition) (2009) Wasowski, S. with A. Wasowski
Bibref 841 - Native Alternatives to Invasive Plants (2006) Burrell, C. C.
Bibref 1243 - The Southeastern Indians (1976) Hudson, Charles

Search More Titles in Bibliography

Additional resources

USDA: Find Sabal palmetto in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Sabal palmetto in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Sabal palmetto


Record Modified: 2015-07-22
Research By: TWC Staff

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