Saw Palmetto

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 Serenoa repens subsp. var.  Saw palmetto
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Habit: palm-cycad
Height: to
Width: to
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Height: 3 ft to 15 ft
Width: warning.png"" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki. to 7 ft
Lifespan: perennial
Exposure: sun
Water: moist
Features: evergreen
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Minimum Temp: °Fwarning.png"°F" is not a number.
USDA Zones: 8 to 11
Sunset Zones:
Flower features: white
Arecaceae > Serenoa repens var. ,

Serenoa repens, commonly known as saw palmetto, is the sole species currently classified in the genus Serenoa. It has been known by a number of synonyms, including Sabal serrulatum, under which name it still often appears in alternative medicine. It is a small palm, normally reaching a height of around 2–4 m (3–6 ft).[1] Its trunk is sprawling, and it grows in clumps or dense thickets in sandy coastal lands or as undergrowth in pine woods or hardwood hammocks. Erect stems or trunks are rarely produced but are found in some populations. It is endemic to the southeastern United States, most commonly along the Atlantic and Gulf Coastal plains, but also as far inland as southern Arkansas. It is a hearty plant; extremely slow growing, and long lived, with some plants, especially in Florida, possibly being as old as 500-700 years.[2]

Saw palmetto is a fan palm, with the leaves that have a bare petiole terminating in a rounded fan of about 20 leaflets. The petiole is armed with fine, sharp teeth or spines that give the species its common name. The leaves are light green inland, and silvery-white in coastal regions. The leaves are 1–2 m in length, the leaflets 50-100 cm long. They are similar to the leaves of the palmettos of genus Sabal. The flowers are yellowish-white, about 5 mm across, produced in dense compound panicles up to 60 cm long. The fruit is a large reddish-black drupe and is an important food source for wildlife and historically for humans. The plant is used as a food plant by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species such as Batrachedra decoctor, which feeds exclusively on the plant.

An evergreen Shrub growing to 3m by 2m at a slow rate. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs)

Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture

Serenoa (after Sereno Watson, distinguished American botanist, 1826-1892). Also written Serenaea. Palmaceae. Low shrubby or tree-like, more or less armed palms.

Caudex creeping, branched, clothed with the fibrous bases of the lf .-sheaths: lvs. terminal, orbicular, coriaceous, deeply plicate-multifid, glaucous beneath, with narrow bifid infolded segms.; rachis none; ligule short; petiole plano-convex, dentate on the margins: spadix long, tomentose, the flexuous rachis covered with deeply obliquely fissured, tubular sheaths, the spreading branches forked, the alternate branchlets very slender: spathes many, sheathing the peduncle: bractlets minute: fls. white: fr. ovoid, black, an inch long.— Species 2, Fla. to S. C. Cult. in the temperate house, or outdoors from Charleston southward.

The saw palmetto is the native creeping fan-leaved palm. Those who are clearing land in Florida consider it a nuisance. It is, however, of great interest to northern tourists, many of whom like to take home a small Florida palm in a pot or tub. This species does very well in pots, though it is of slow growth. Relatively speaking, it is very hardy, as it will stand a temperature of 10° F. The leaves of the saw palmetto, both fresh and dried, are sent north in great quantities for Christmas decoration. The "crowns" are also largely used for the same purpose and deserve a greater popularity. Crowns are whole tops cut off; they have no roots, and only a part of the stem. They give the effect of the whole plant and are therefore much more desirable for some purposes than single leaves. They will last for weeks, if kept moist, in the shade and free from drafts. Crowns 3 to 5 feet high are considerably used for large decorations. CH

The above text is from the Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture. It may be out of date, but still contains valuable and interesting information which can be incorporated into the remainder of the article. Click on "Collapse" in the header to hide this text.


Requires a warm sunny position in a moist but well-drained soil[231]. Plants can succeed in quite dry soils so long as their roots can penetrate to underground water[231]. Growing mainly in coastal areas in its native range, this species is likely to be very tolerant of maritime exposure, though not of cold winds[K]. This species is one of the hardiest of palms and succeeds outdoors in warm temperate zones[200]. It is only likely to be marginally hardy, even in the mildest areas of Britain, and probably tolerates temperatures down to between -5 and -10°c[K]. 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[231]. 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[231]. Palms 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[231]. Plants usually sucker freely in the wild and form dense thickets[200].


The seed is best sown in a warm greenhouse as soon as it is ripe. It usually germinates freely. Stored seed is more difficult to germinate, it should be pre-soaked for 24 hours in warm water before sowing in a warm greenhouse. When 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. Although the plant forms suckers, these do not usually transplant well and so seed is the only sure method of propagation[200].

Pests and diseases




  1. Barnard, Edward S. & Yates, Sharon Fass, ed (1998). "Trees". Reader's Digest North American Wildlife: Trees and Nonflowering Plants. The Reader's Digest Association, Inc. p. 131. ISBN 0-7621-0037-0. 
  2. Template:Cite paper

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