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Common Name: Cabbage Palmetto
Sabal palmetto is an evergreen tree that can grow up to 6.00 metres tall.
It is harvested from the wild for local use as a food, medicine and source of materials.
South-eastern N. America - North Carolina to Florida.
Brackish marshes, seacoast woodlands or hammocks and sandy soils near the coast[
Succeeds in most fertile moist but well-drained soils in a sheltered sunny position[
]. This species usually grows close to the coast and is tolerant of salt spray[
]. Although it prefers a humid atmosphere, this species is tolerant of arid atmospheres so long as it has plenty of moisture available at the roots[
This palm tolerates short-lived freezes down to about -10°c and can be grown outdoors in the very mildest areas of the country[
This species has been designated the state tree of Florida[
Palms usually have deep penetrating root systems and generally establish best when planted out at a young stage. However, older plants are substantially more cold tolerant than juvenile plants[
]. In areas at the limit of their cold tolerance, therefore, it is prudent to grow the plants in containers for some years, giving them winter protection, and only planting them into their permanent positions when sheer size dictates[
]. This species can also be transplanted even when very large. Although the thick fleshy roots are easily damaged and/or desiccated, new roots are generally freely produced. It is important to stake the plant very firmly to prevent rock, and also to give it plenty of water until re-established - removing many of the leaves can also help[
A very variable plant in the wild[
Fruit - raw or cooked[
]. Sweet and pleasant[
]. A small dry berry up to 12mm in diameter, with a thin sweet flesh[
]. A nourishing food, though it is said to be an acquired taste[
Young leaves - raw or cooked[
]. An excellent food[
]. The large succulent leaf buds are cooked and eaten as a vegetable[
Sap - sweet[
The berries or seeds have been used in the treatment of grass sickness, low fever, headaches and weight loss[
An excellent fibre is obtained from the leaf stalks[
]. The best quality is from young leaf stalks still in the bud, whilst coarser material is obtained from older leaves or the bases of old leaf stalks surrounding the bud[
]. The fibres are up to 50cm long, they are harvested commercially and used to make brushes, especially where these have to remain stiff in hot water or caustics[
Pieces of the spongy bark of the stem are used as a substitute for scrubbing brushes[
The leaves are woven to make coarse hats, mats and baskets[
The roots contain about 10% tannin[
]. This has been harvested commercially in the past but there is not really enough tannin for profitable extraction[
Wood - light and soft[
]. The trunks are used to make wharf piles, whilst polished cross-sections of the trunk have been used as small table tops[
]. The wood is also largely manufactured into canes[
Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in a warm greenhouse at not less than 24°c[
]. Stored seed is very slow to germinate. Pre-soaking the seed for 24 hours in warm water prior to sowing may shorten the germination time. Plants form a long tap-root some time before forming a shoot. Germination of fresh seed usually takes place in 3 - 4 months at 25°c[
]. As soon as they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first two winters. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Consider giving them some protection from the cold for at least their first winter outdoors.