Dwarf Palmetto (Minor)

The Dwarf Palmetto (Minor) is generally described as a perennial tree or shrub. This is native to the U.S. (United States) has its most active growth period in the spring and summer . The greatest bloom is usually observed in the late spring, with fruit and seed production starting in the fall and continuing until winter. Leaves are retained year to year. The Dwarf Palmetto (Minor) has a moderate life span relative to most other plant species and a slow growth rate. At maturity, the typical Dwarf Palmetto (Minor) will reach up to 9 feet high, with a maximum height at 20 years of 4 feet.

The Dwarf Palmetto (Minor) is easily found in nurseries, garden stores and other plant dealers and distributors. It can be propagated by bare root, container, seed. It has a moderate ability to spread through seed production and the seedlings have low vigor. Note that cold stratification is not required for seed germination and the plant cannot survive exposure to temperatures below 7°F. has none tolerance to drought and restricted water conditions.

Uses of : Landscaping, Medicinal, Culinary, etc.

Ethnobotanic: The Houma used juice crushed from the small roots as an eye medicine to relieve irritation. Dried roots were taken for high blood pressure. A tea from the dried roots was taken for kidney ailments and as a stimulant for “swimming in the head.” The fresh roots were baked and served as “palmetto bread.” The small fruits, sometimes called “famine food” were also eaten. The Seminoles, Houma, Choctaw, and other Native American tribes used the leaves of dwarf palmetto much in the same way that they used the leaves of the related tree, cabbage palmetto (Sabal palmetto). The fan-shaped leaves were used to thatch homes. Immature blades from the leaves were prepared by sun-bleaching and then braided into thin strips for use as lashings or sewn together to make baskets and other useful articles. Leaves were used to make fans that were carried during certain dances. Coiled-grass baskets tied with palmetto were made by the Houma as late as the 1930s. These unique baskets were made only in Louisiana and Tierra del Fuego. Contemporary people use the palmetto leaves to weave baskets and make small dolls with hair of Spanish moss.

Wildlife: The fruits are an important food for robins and raccoons, providing from 10% to 20% of their diet. Fish crows, mockingbirds, myrtle warblers, pileated and red-bellied woodpeckers, and gray squirrels also eat the fruits.

Livestock: This plant is reported to be frequently grazed by cattle, more so than any other palm.

General Characteristics

General: This shrub-like palm generally reaches a height of only 0.5 to 2 m. The stem is usually not visible, being either buried or very short, although it has been reported to occasionally reach 8m tall in Louisiana and Texas. The circular, fan-like leaves are composed of 16 to 40 pale- or blue-green blades that are 15dm wide. These stiff, nearly flat blades do not have a prominent midrib. The white flower petals are 2 to 3 mm long. The small fruits (6-8mm in diameter) are glossy black in color and enclose a large seed (5-6mm). The fruits ripen in the fall.

Similar species: Cabbage palmetto (Sabal palmetto) is a palm tree that can reach 20 m in height. Saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) often has a similar appearance as dwarf palmetto as it has a short or horizontal stem. It grows in the same native range but is less cold hardy.

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 Dwarf palmetto grows along streams, in swampy or rocky hammocks and in maritime heaths along the coastal plain in the southeastern United States. It is common to freshwater wetlands and floodplain forests where it often forms dense thickets. It rarely occurs in upland woodlands. This is the hardiest of the Sabal genus as well as one of the hardiest of palms.

Cultivation and Care

Dwarf palmetto is simple to grow and can be grown in a wide variety of soils with medium drainage and fertility in both moist and fairly dry areas. It has a slow to moderate growth rate.

Seeds: May be easily propagated from seed as fresh seed germinates readily. Transplant in the following year.

Transplanting: It is best to transplant in June or July. Water frequently until the plant shows 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. SANIC4"In six riparian restoration projects carried out in California, competition from exotic weed species was a key factor in mortality and site failure (Baird 1989). On small sites, hand weeding around trees and shrubs is the most effective means of weed control. One way to avoid competition from weeds on larger sites is to remove the surface soil, although this has the disadvantage of removing nutrients, mycorrhizal fungi, bacteria, and insect and invertebrate populations critical to a healthy habitat. A cover crop of native wildflowers was also used to control weeds, with wildflower seeds hand-broadcast over the site. On wetter, heavier soils this does not seem to provide effective weed control.

There is considerable evidence that fertilization can favor exotic weeds over native plants. Inoculation with mycorrhizal fungi enables seedlings of some species to better utilize limited supplies of both water and nutrients. Inoculation of transplanted shrubs may be accomplished through inclusion of large (1.2 m deep by 2.8 m wide) root balls with plants. Smaller, more economical soil plugs scattered throughout the site serve the same purpose. The number of soil plugs needed to ensure the establishment of soil flora is directly related to the distance of the restoration site from a similar, mature community.

Given that elderberry provides habitat for the federally listed valley longhorn elderberry beetle, livestock grazing of elderberry is not recommended. Livestock grazing can alter vegetative structure and composition of riparian habitat. Overgrazing by livestock and big game frequently changes plant species composition and growth form, density of stands, vigor, seed production of plants, and insect production.

Clear-cutting or seed tree cutting with high soil disturbance sometimes favors the development of elderberry in a seral community. It recovers well from heavy grazing in the Great Basin. For use in site stabilization or rehabilitation, seeds may be planted directly or seedlings and 1-2-year old stock may be transplanted. It also grows from transplanted seedlings, cuttings, and rootstocks. Elderberry usually is not present in the understory of closed-canopy forests, and when fire occurs in these, regeneration occurs from seed banks that may occur between 2-10 cm deep in the soil, the seeds deposited from off-site dispersal or from plants of an earlier community. Fire scarifies the hard seed coat of buried seeds and stimulates their germination, which usually occurs the first growing season after the fire. Subsequent burns may eliminate elderberry since it spreads slowly by seed. Fire kills above-ground parts but the root crown may sprout but a severe fire can kill the root and stem buds from which sprouting occurs. "

Plant Basics
Growth Rate Slow
General Type Tree, Shrub
Growth Period Spring, Summer
Growth Duration Perennial
Lifespan Moderate
Plant Nativity Native to U.S.
Commercial Availability Routinely Available
Physical Characteristics
Bloom Period Late Spring
Displays Fall Colors No
Shape/Growth Form Bunch
Drought Tolerance None
Shade Tolerance Tolerant
Height When Mature 9
Flower Color White
Flower Conspicuousness No
Fruit/Seed Abundance Low
Fruit/Seed Seasonality Fall Winter
Seed Spread Rate Moderate
Gardening Characteristics
Propagations (Ways to Grow) Bare Root, Container, Seed
Moisture Requirements High
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 Slow
After-Harvest Resprout Ability No
Responds to Coppicing No
Growth Requirements
pH Range 5.5–6.5 pH
Precipitation Range 35–35 inches/yr
Planting Density 50–100 indiv./acre
Soil Textures Fine, Medium
Soil Depth for Roots 18
Minimum Frost-Free Days 180 day(s)
Salinity Tolerance None
CaCO3 Tolerance None
Sustainability & Use
Leaf Retention Yes
Palatability Low
Fire Resistant Yes

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