Sorting out the Florida Sabal Palms
http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ ( Publisher's URL )
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Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/IR00000903/00001
 Material Information
Title: Sorting out the Florida Sabal Palms
Physical Description: Fact Sheet
Creator: Fox, David A.
Andreu, Michael G.
Publisher: University of Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agriculture Sciences, EDIS
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 2012
Abstract: While traveling through the Florida peninsula, a casual observer will notice a wide variety of palms and find that many are called "palmetto." This 4-page fact sheet helps field investigators identify the four Sabal species found in Florida&#039;s natural areas, first by distinguishing them from other fan palms and then from each other.
Acquisition: Collected for University of Florida's Institutional Repository by the UFIR Self-Submittal tool. Submitted by Diana Hagan.
Publication Status: Published
General Note: "Publication #FOR289"
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Source Institution: University of Florida Institutional Repository
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the submitter.
System ID: IR00000903:00001


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FOR289 Sorting out the Florida Sabal Palms1David A. Fox and Michael G. Andreu2 1. This document is FOR289, one of a series of the School of Forest Resources and Conservation Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Original publication date March 2012. Visit the EDIS website at http://edis.ifas.u.edu 2. Da vid A. Fox, research assistant; and Michael G. Andreu, associate professor, forest systems; School of Forest Resources and Conservation, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida 32611The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or aliations. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Cooperative Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A&M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Millie Ferrer-Chancy, Interim DeanSabal palmetto is the state tree of both Florida and South Carolina where it is commonly known, respectively, as cabbage palmetto and as the palmetto tree. S. palmetto is the most widespread arborescent palm (having an aboveground trunk) native to the United States. It is one of sixteen species of Sabal four of which occur naturally in Florida. is fact sheet will help eld investigators identify the four Sabal species found in Floridas natural areas, rst by distinguishing them from other fan palms and then from each other. Table 1 summarizes key identication attributes. In the planted landscape, a more detailed key will be necessary for palm identication as only Sabal species native to Florida are addressed here.First, what is a palmetto?While traveling through the Florida peninsula, a casual observer will notice a wide variety of palms and nd that many are called palmetto. When referring to plants, the use of common names can be problematic. Scientists prefer the Latin binomial or scientic name when speaking of a particular plant. However, various natural history, ethnobotanical, and folk literature accounts simply mention palmetto, thus causing some confusion as to which palm is being described. Spanish conquistadores who landed on Floridas northeast coast immediately noticed the palmito or little palms growing everywhere. e palmetto moniker has since been applied in common names to the following Florida palm species in two dierent genera: Serenoa repens = saw palmetto or simply palmetto, the most frequent modern application of the name Sabal palmetto = cabbage palmetto or palmetto tree Sabal etonia = scrub palmetto, bush palmetto Sabal minor = swamp palmetto, dwarf palmetto Sabal miamiensis = Miami palmetto (rare or extinct)Genus SabalBefore modern genetic techniques, identifying and classifying palms worldwide was a messy business. Taxonomists would rename and juggle taxa among groups when new species were identied based on morphological characteristics or geography. e recognition and description of the genus Sabal by French botanist Michel Adanson in 1763 led to later reclassication of taxa previously placed in Old World genera. Sabal species, part of the New World atch Palm group, have dispersed over long distances and are adapted to a wide range of conditions around the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean basin. Ecologically, Florida Sabal species occupy many distinct niches, which likely explains their dierentiation. erefore, geography is an important piece of the Sabal identication puzzle in Florida. Sabal palms can be separated from all other genera of fan palms by three key characteristics:


2 costapalmate fronds or leaves, unarmed petioles (smooth, no thorns or spines anywhere on the palm) split leaf bases where fronds attach to the stem. Figure 1 shows the costa as a long, narrow, triangular extension of the petiole that divides the leaf, sometimes adding a folded eect, hence the term costapalmate fronds. Saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) has a palmate frond with no costa, thus distinguishing it from Sabal palms. Sabal Species in FloridaSabal palmetto (Walt.) Lodd. ex J.A. & J.H. Schultes, cabbage palm is arborescent or tree-like with a stout trunk between 6 inches (15 cm) and 18 inches (45cm) in diameter, with or without old leaf bases attached. Cabbage palms can remain in an establishment or juvenile phase for many years before developing an aboveground trunk. During this trunkless stage they will not ower or fruit. erefore, a trunkless Sabal-like palm with an inorescence cannot be S. palmetto. e 15 leaves, with prominent costa, have long thin lamentous bers between leaf segments. e arching inorescences are longer than the leaves and occur within the canopy between leaves. Fruit are usually less than 1 cm diameter. Cabbage palms are found in hydric, mesic, atwoods, lower sandhill, and coastal forest ecosystems. ey can live behind the rst dune and are tolerant of salt spray. In northern Florida S. palmetto typically grows as scattered understory plants within temperate mesic hammocks or on mounds in oodplain swamps where they are easily confused with S. minor on wetter sites. Cabbage palms can be a dominant canopy tree along creeks or in coastal forests. In southern Florida cabbage palms form nearly monotypic hammocks in wet atwoods or cypress/pine savannas. Sabal etonia Swingle ex Nash., scrub palmetto, bush palmetto, bluestem, or corkscrew palmetto has a solitary underground (rarely aboveground to 1 meter) spiral-shaped trunk and 4 yellow-green leaves with a prominent costa and laments between leaf segments. As the common name implies, scrub palmetto is found only in dry pinelands and sand pine scrub along the central Florida ridge and some of the coastal ridges of southeast Florida. Inorescences Figure 1. Sabal palmetto leaf showing costa Credits: David A. Fox Figure 2. Sabal palmetto Credits: David A. Fox Figure 3. Sabal etonia, scrub palmetto, at Archbold Biological Station, Florida, USA http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sabal_etonia


3 are usually shorter than the leaves, and fruit range from 1.5 cm in diameter. e somewhat similar saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) has short, saw-like thorns along either side of the petiole in contrast to the characteristic smooth petiole of Sabal, and S. repens has palmate fronds rather than the costapalmate leaves of Sabal Sabal minor (Jacq.) Pers. dwarf palmetto or swamp palmetto has a solitary subterranean stem (rarely aboveground to 2 m) and 4 dark green leaves with a weak costa. Leaf segments are only joined a short distance near the base and have no lamentous bers. Inorescences are branched twice and extend beyond the leaves. S. minor is found on moist to wet alluvial soils from north central Florida to the Carolinas and west to Texas, typically as an understory species in temperate deciduous hardwood forests. e needle palm (Rhapidophyllum hystrix ) grows in similar habitat but is distinguished by the long needles emanating from the leaf sheaths near the bud. Sabal miamiensis Zona Miami palmetto (rare or extinct) is a solitary palm with an underground stem and 3 strongly costapalmate leaves, said to curve to a near circle. Filamentous bers between leaf segments may or may not be present. e inorescence is branched 3 times (distinguishing it from S. etonia, which is branched twice) with rather large fruit 1.5 to 2 cm in diameter. is palm is only found in the Miami-Dade rock pinelands of southeast Florida on shallow calcareous soils and limestone outcroppings. Because of the intensive urban development of that region, some authors believe this species to be nearly extinct.ReferencesDranseld, John, Natalie W. Uhl, and Royal Botanic Gardens Kew. Genera Palmarum: e Evolution and Classication of Palms. Richmond, Surrey, UK: Kew Pub., 2008. Henderson, Andrew, Gloria Galeano, and Rodrigo Bernal. Field Guide to the Palms of the Americas. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1995. Rie, Robert Lee, and Paul Cra. An Encyclopedia of Cultivated Palms Portland, Or.: Timber Press, 2003. Wunderlin, Richard P. Guide to the Vascular Plants of Central Florida Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida, 1982. Zona, Scott. A Monograph of Sabal Arecaceae Coryphoideae. Aliso 12, no. 4 (1990): 583. . A Taxonomic Study of the Sabal Palmetto Complex (Palmae) in Florida. esis (MS), University of Florida, 1983. Figure 4. Sabal minor Credits: Chris Evans, River to River CWMA, Bugwood.org


4 Table 1. Key characteristics for identifying Sabal species in Floridas natural areas Species Range/HabitatAbove-ground Stem# LeavesLeaf colorCosta Leaf bersInorescence branching Fruit Size S. palmetto Peninsular FL, coastal GA, SC, NC. Hydric to mesic Yes (12 diam to 50 tall) or No when young 15Medium to dark green Prominent Yes 3 orders, bushy, longer than leaves. Not present until aboveground stem develops. 0.5 1 cm S. etonia FL central ridge and SE Florida coastal ridge, xeric scrub No or Rarely to less than 3 4 Yellow-greenProminent Yes 2 orders (rarely 3), bushy, shorter than leaves 1 1.5 cm S. minor FL north to NC and west to TX, hydric to mesic deciduous hardwood forests No or Rarely (4 diam to 6 tall) 4 Dark greenMinimalNo 2 orders, erect, longer than leaves 0.5 1 cm S. miamiensis SE FL Miami-Dade rock pineland No 3 Medium greenProminentYes or No3 orders, arching, longer than leaves 1.5 2 cm Note: Leaf number can be highly variable with age, position in the canopy, and with soil potassium levels.