The cabbage palmetto, or sabal palm, is the state tree of South Carolina. This tree grows to be up to 90 feet tall, but averages 40 to 50 feet. It is commonly called palmetto, cabbage palm, common palmetto and Carolina palmetto. The cabbage palm is remarkably well adapted to hurricanes, still standing after oaks and pines snap in two. This tree has many interesting and unique characteristics.
According to the State Handbook and Guide Resources website, the South Carolina palmetto is classified by the USDA as "Inodes Palmetto," or sabal palmetto. It is also called the cabbage palmetto. This tree was chosen as the state tree of South Carolina and is on the state seal, since it has historical significance for the state. It represents the victory against the British fleet by a fort that was built on palmetto logs on Sullivan's Island during the Civil War.
The cabbage palmetto has a straight trunk and a short rounded crown. The bark is brown gray with vertical splits, and it has a tough texture. This tree has green fan-shaped pointy leaflets that are 4 to 6 feet long. The leaf stalks are long and stretch through the leaf. This tree has small white flowers that bloom in clusters in early summer. The cabbage palmetto's fruit is round, shiny and dark blue. The fruit ripens starting in early fall and throughout the winter. Raccoons, squirrels and other wildlife love to feed on the cabbage palm's fruit.
The cabbage palmetto's habitat range is from southeastern North Carolina, throughout South Carolina and Georgia all the way south to the Florida Keys. It flourishes in several habitats, including tropical hammocks, flatwoods and upland hardwoods. Cabbage palms can also grow in wet prairies, coastal marshes and swamps. This tree is unusually resistant to insects and infections and is tolerant of salt spray and water. It flourishes in both partial shade and full sun.
Climate & Soil
Cabbage palms prefer warm temperatures to humid subtropical climates with an annual rainfall of 39 to 64 inches and temperature range of 25 to 97 degrees Fahrenheit. Habitats with low winter temperatures limit growth. They require calcium-rich soil with a neutral to alkaline pH. Cabbage palms favor moist soils that are poorly drained, frequently growing along brackish and freshwater wetlands. They will tolerate flooding.
The cabbage palmetto's leaf bud is eaten as a salad vegetable, and also used in making pickles and relishes. It is often planted as an ornamental tree, landscaping tree and avenue tree and is grown in urban areas.
- Photo Credit palm image by koko300 from Fotolia.com South Carolina state contour against blurred USA flag image by Stasys Eidiejus from Fotolia.com