Cabbage Palmetto (Palmetto)

The Cabbage Palmetto (Palmetto) is generally described as a perennial tree. This is native to the U.S. (United States) has its most active growth period in the spring and summer . The Cabbage Palmetto (Palmetto) has gray-green foliage and inconspicuous white flowers, with an abuncance of conspicuous black fruits or seeds. The greatest bloom is usually observed in the summer, with fruit and seed production starting in the fall and continuing until winter. Leaves are retained year to year. The Cabbage Palmetto (Palmetto) has a moderate life span relative to most other plant species and a slow growth rate. At maturity, the typical Cabbage Palmetto (Palmetto) will reach up to 90 feet high, with a maximum height at 20 years of 15 feet.

The Cabbage Palmetto (Palmetto) is not commonly available from nurseries, garden stores and other plant dealers and distributors. It can be propagated by bare root, container, seed. It has a slow ability to spread through seed production and the seedlings have medium vigor. Note that cold stratification is not required for seed germination and the plant cannot survive exposure to temperatures below 7°F. has low tolerance to drought and restricted water conditions.

Uses of : Landscaping, Medicinal, Culinary, etc.

Ethnobotanic: The Seminole, Houma, Choctaw, and other Native American peoples in the southeastern United States used cabbage palmetto for a wide variety of purposes. The white, crisp palm hearts were eaten either raw or cooked by boiling or steaming. The leaf buds are purported to taste like cabbage. However, both of these food uses--the heart and the buds--result in the death of the plant. The palm fruits, which ripen in the fall, are small and mostly seed, but they are sweet with a slight bitter aftertaste. The seeds and berries were used for headaches and to lower fevers. The plants provided fiber and wood used to construct houses, make food paddles, drying frames for animal skins, potato drying mats, fish drags, fish poison, ballsticks, arrows and hunting dance staffs. Most Seminole homes were built from the cabbage palm. Logs would be used as poles for the framework of huts that were thatched with the fan-shaped leaves. Split logs were used for flooring. Immature fronds were bleached in the sun, cut into strips, and plaited to make long strips, which were used for lashing or sewn together to make baskets. The stiff midribs of the leaves were sometimes used to construct ball sticks or racquets. Palmetto-thatched houses may still be found in Houma country in Louisiana.

Wildlife: Fruits ripen in the late fall and are eaten by crows, mockingbirds, warblers, pileated and red-bellied woodpeckers and squirrels. Palmetto fruits provide 10% to 25% of the diet of raccoons and robins in the Southeast.

General Characteristics

General: Palm family (Arecaceae). Cabbage Palmetto is an evergreen palm tree that can reach 20m in height. The erect, unbranched trunk has grayish to brownish bark with distinctive pineapple-like markings where the old leaf stalks were attached. Medium-green, stiff, fanlike leaves are palmately compound and spread in all directions as they emerge from the top of the trunk. The fans, often wider than they are long (2-3 m wide), contain several long and pointed leaflets with prominent midribs. During June and July, abundant, small (.5cm), fragrant, white flowers are borne upon drooping, branched clusters. The berry-like fruits are small (1.5cm), shiny and black. Each fruit contains one seed.

Similar species: The shrub-like, dwarf palmetto (Sabal minor) is common to freshwater wetlands of the southeastern United States. The leaves lack the prominent midrib and it usually does not grow a stem.

Required Growing Conditions

Native to the Gulf Coast states and Florida. For current distribution, please consult the Plant Profile page for this species on the PLANTS Web site.

Adaptation Cabbage palm grows in a wide variety of habitats in which the water table is fairly close to the surface. It is found in the drier, upland areas of both fresh and saltwater wetlands, wet hammocks, riverbanks, seasonally wet prairies, maritime forests and coastal plains. In Florida and across the gulf states, cabbage palmetto is commonly found in transition zones between active floodplains and uplands. It also occurs in maritime heath communities in the Carolinas and Virginia as well as the hardwood upland hammocks communities of the Everglades.

Cultivation and Care

Cabbage palmetto is widely planted for landscaping as an ornamental because of its stately structure and large, graceful fan-shaped fronds. It has a slow to moderate growth rate and is used for street trees as well as for the patio or terrace. It can be grown in sun or in part shade. The tree grows well in a wide variety of soils with medium to poor drainage and fertility in both moist and fairly dry areas. It is recommended for seaside plantings, as it is tolerant of salt. It is not hardy in mountain areas as it is sensitive to cold.

Propagation by seeds: The trees may be easily propagated from seed, as they germinate readily.

Transplantings: It is best to transplant cabbage palmettos in June or July. Seedlings can be transplanted the year following germination although larger plants transplant more easily. This is because increased food reserves stored in the main stem of larger transplants help in the regeneration of new roots. Tie the leaves together before transplanting to protect the terminal bud. After transplanting into a hole large enough to hold the roots, support the plant with stakes. It is necessary to water frequently until you can observe growth, to ensure proper establishment of the root system.

General Upkeep and Control

Established plants tend to self-sow. Fruit drupes may be removed if self-sowing is not desired. The plant has no serious pests. Remove old leaf bases to control their use as hiding places for roaches and other insects. SAPR3"Mackenzie willow provides important streambank protection by effectively stabilizing soils. Heavy grazing in moist Mackenzie willow communities can lead to soil compaction, streambank sloughing, and damage to willow plants. Grazing is particularly detrimental to the establishment of willows. Plants recover rapidly when browsing is excluded.

Seed and Plant Production Mackenzie willow is easily propagated with hardwood cuttings without use of rooting hormone. It can also be propagated with seed but seed must be collected as soon as the fruits ripen. Mature seed loses germination ability rapidly, so planting soon after collection is necessary. Moistened seed may be stored for up to a month if refrigerated in sealed containers. Seeds of willow are not known to exhibit dormancy. Some native plant propagators prefer seed propagation for added diversity of genetic material and less labor requirement for handling of materials during collection, storage and propagation. (See "

Plant Basics
Growth Rate Slow
General Type Tree
Growth Period Spring, Summer
Growth Duration Perennial
Lifespan Moderate
Plant Nativity Native to U.S.
Commercial Availability No Known Source
Physical Characteristics
Bloom Period Summer
Displays Fall Colors No
Shape/Growth Form Single Stem
Drought Tolerance Low
Shade Tolerance Tolerant
Height When Mature 90
Flower Color White
Flower Conspicuousness Yes
Fruit/Seed Abundance High
Fruit/Seed Seasonality Fall Winter
Seed Spread Rate Slow
Gardening Characteristics
Propagations (Ways to Grow) Bare Root, Container, Seed
Moisture Requirements Medium
Cold Stratification Required No
Minimum Temperature 7
Soil Depth for Roots 18
Toxic to Nearby Plants No
Toxic to Livestock No
After-Harvest Regrowth Rate None
After-Harvest Resprout Ability No
Responds to Coppicing No
Growth Requirements
pH Range 6–6.8 pH
Precipitation Range 30–30 inches/yr
Planting Density 300–1200 indiv./acre
Soil Textures Fine, Medium
Soil Depth for Roots 18
Minimum Frost-Free Days 180 day(s)
Salinity Tolerance High
CaCO3 Tolerance Low
Sustainability & Use
Leaf Retention Yes
Palatability Low
Fire Resistant Yes

Source: USDA, NRCS, PLANTS Database,
National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA