COMMON NAMES: SAW PALMETTO, SABAL PALM
Serenoa repens (ser-ah-NOAH RAY-penz)
Arecaceae (Palmae) (Palm Family)
Fan palm tree
HEIGHT: 3 to 7 feet usually, sometimes up to 25 feet
SPREAD: 6 to 8 feet
FINAL SPACING: 8 to 10 feet
NATURAL HABITAT AND PREFERRED SITE: Full sun in a wide range of soils. Native from South Carolina to Florida and across the Gulf Coast. Full sun to partial shade.
IDENTIFICATION INFORMATION: Small fan palm with blue gray green leaves that are about 2 feet wide. Shrubby, clumping palm, sometimes with almost no distinct stem.
FLOWERS AND FRUIT: Early summer flowers are branched, white, fragrant, followed by dusky 1 inch red to brownish black berries. Bark is typical palm shredded looking bark with old stems remaining attached for some time. Fruit is blue black about 1 inch long.
BARK: Stem is mostly underground or partially so, branches freely. The stem is covered with leaf bases and brown fibers.
FOLIAGE: Large, blue gray-green leaves on strong leaf stems. Each blade ends in two sharp points.
CULTURE: Saw palmetto grows easily in a wide range of soils but likes sandy soils best. It is hardy to about 10 degrees, is a tough drought tolerant plant but is difficult to transplant. After establishing from transplant it is very easy to grow and can be grown in containers. Extremely tough, drought and salt tolerant. Grows in almost any soil including extremely low fertility sands. It does not respond much to fertilizer.
PROBLEMS: Getting the plant established. Transplanting is difficult due to its large root system. Freeze damage in the northern part of the state. Palmetto weevils that occasionally attack can be controlled easily with Garrett Juice plus garlic/pepper tea.
PROPAGATION: Saw palmetto is grown from fresh seed planted immediately after harvest.
INSIGHT: Saw palmetto has become a very important culinary and medicinal plant. The flowers are a significant source of honey. Extracts from the berries are now used as a treatment for noncancerous enlargement of the male prostate gland. Excellent small palm for the garden or for large pots. Saw palmetto is a great landscape palm especially for the southern half of the state and should be grown more both for its medicinal and landscape value.