Index of Species Information

SPECIES:  Serenoa repens

Introductory

SPECIES: Serenoa repens
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION : Van Deelen, Timothy R. 1991. Serenoa repens. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/ [].
ABBREVIATION : SERREP SYNONYMS : Serenoa serrulata Nichols. SCS PLANT CODE : SERE2 COMMON NAMES : saw-palmetto TAXONOMY : The currently accepted scientific name for saw-palmetto is Serenoa repens (Bartr.) Small (Palmea or Arecaceae) [10]. There are no recognized subspecies, varieties, or forms [24]. LIFE FORM : Tree, Shrub FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS : No special status OTHER STATUS : NO-ENTRY


DISTRIBUTION AND OCCURRENCE

SPECIES: Serenoa repens
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION : Saw-palmetto is endemic to peninsular Florida and the coastal plains from southeastern Louisiana to southern South Carolina [10,19]. ECOSYSTEMS : FRES12 Longleaf - slash pine FRES13 Loblolly - shortleaf pine FRES14 Oak - pine FRES15 Oak - hickory FRES16 Oak - gum - cypress FRES41 Wet grasslands STATES : AL FL GA LA MS SC BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS : NO-ENTRY KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS : K079 Palmetto prairie K080 Marl - everglades K090 Live oak - sea oats K092 Everglades K112 Southern mixed forest K115 Sand pine scrub K116 Subtropical pine forest SAF COVER TYPES : 69 Sand pine 70 Longleaf pine 71 Longleaf pine - scrub oak 72 Southern scrub oak 74 Cabbage palmetto 83 Longleaf pine - slash pine 84 Slash pine 105 Tropical hardwoods 111 South Florida slash pine SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES : NO-ENTRY HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES : NO-ENTRY

MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS

SPECIES: Serenoa repens
WOOD PRODUCTS VALUE : Saw-palmetto stems provide crude logs and have been used for pulp, although the quality of the paper produced is poor [32,38]. IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE : Although occasionally eaten by cattle, saw-palmetto has little value as livestock forage and is a rangeland pest [18,19]. Saw-palmetto helps provide primary habitat for the wildlife of southern Florida's palmetto prairies. Distinctive species include the crested caracara, the Florida burrowing owl, and the Florida sandhill crane [6]. As a member of scrub communities, saw-palmetto provides essential habitat for sand skinks, the Florida mouse, and a variety of birds, including the Florida scrub jay--a threatened subspecies [4]. Black bears feed on saw-palmetto fruit [17] and the young shoots which sprout after winter fires in the Florida flatwoods [16]. White-tailed deer also eat saw-palmetto fruit, especially during dry years [13]. PALATABILITY : NO-ENTRY NUTRITIONAL VALUE : NO-ENTRY COVER VALUE : Saw-palmetto provides security cover for white-tailed deer in Florida's pine flatwoods [13]. VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES : Saw-palmetto can be used for watershed protection, erosion control, and phosphate-mine reclamation [6]. OTHER USES AND VALUES : A drug called serenoa can be derived from the partially dried, ripe fruits of saw-palmetto and used to treat bladder, prostate, and urethra infections. Bees collect nectar from the flowers to produce honey [32]. Saw-palmetto leaves provide thatch and Christmas decorations. Saw palmetto stems are a source of tannin acid extract and can be processed into a cork substitute [32,38]. OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : Saw-palmetto is a pest and fire hazard in Southern timber stands. It contributes large amounts of combustible fuel to forest understories and competes with pines (Pinus spp.) for moisture, nutrients, and space [3,21]. Silvicultural and range management objectives often call for saw-palmetto control. Centuries of open range, abusive burning, and excessive grazing have converted many flatwood-bluestem (Andropogon spp.) ranges into flatwood-saw-palmetto ranges [18]. Saw-palmetto control releases palatable grasses and forbs for livestock and deer, and reduces competition with conifers [13]. Mist-blower applications of the herbicide 2,4,5-T provide effective control [19,23], especially when used in conjunction with prescribed burning [3] or other defoliation treatments [23]. Following defoliation by fire or mechanical treatment, saw-palmetto should be sprayed when new shoots appear (approximately 6 months later) [38]. Saw-palmetto does not regenerate well following mechanical removal [5]. Mechanical disturbance which dislodges, uproots, and cuts saw-palmetto stems and rhizomes provides effective control [19]. Roller-drum choppers pulled in tandem at offset angles [13] or perpendicular to each other [28] may reduce saw-palmetto cover by 90 percent 2 years after treatment [13]. Chop-rest-chop rotations provide continued range maintenance [18]. When wildlife or cover management goals require saw-palmetto enhancement, use rock phosphate fertilizer [28] or site drainage [40] to increase cover.

BOTANICAL AND ECOLOGICAL CHARACTERISTICS

SPECIES: Serenoa repens
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS : Saw-palmetto usually grows as a small shrub with creeping, horizontal, many-branched stems. Occasionally it grows as a small tree with erect or oblique stems. As a shrub, it grows to a height of 2 to 7 feet (0.6-2.1 m). As a tree, it may reach 20 to 25 feet (6.0-7.5 m). In its procumbent form, saw-palmetto branches form a tangled mass, with the root crown projecting above to support the foliage. The stem systems run parallel to the soil surface, eventually branching beneath the substrate to form rhizomes. Saw-palmetto leaves are fan-shaped, evergreen and about 3 feet (1 m) wide. The petioles are armed with sharp spines, giving saw-palmetto its common name. The white, perfect flowers are borne on stalked panicles that grow from the leaf axils. The fruit is a fleshy, elipsoid drupe, which is green or yellow before ripening but becomes bluish or black as it matures [10,15,26,32]. RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM : Undisturbed State: Phanerophyte (nanophanerophyte) Undisturbed State: Phanerophyte (microphanerophyte) Burned or Clipped State: Cryptophyte (geophyte) REGENERATION PROCESSES : Vegetative: Saw-palmetto sprouts from horizontal stems and rhizomes. Sexual: Saw-palmetto flowers are insect pollinated. Extensive wildlife use of saw-palmetto fruit suggests that its seeds are animal dispersed. The fruit endocarp and seed coat are impermeable to oxygen. Germination may be delayed 4 to 6 months while these tissues deteriorate [19]. The soil characteristics required for germination are unknown. Seedling growth and early development are slow. Establishment requires 2 to 6 years. Flooding prevents establishment on wet sites, and saturated soils retard seedling root development during the summer rainy season. Seedlings are vulnerable to competition, drought, and fire [19]. In the nursery, saw-palmetto may be propagated by seed. Ripe fruit can be collected by hand-picking or by cutting the fruit-bearing panicle, and seeds extracted with a macerator. Commercial sources of saw-palmetto seeds are often available. Seeds with the micropyle cap removed will germinate in 11 days; those with the micropyle cap intact may require 45 to 60 days. Dried seeds average 1,080 per pound (2,376/kg) [32]. SITE CHARACTERISTICS : Saw palmetto grows in a humid, subtropical to warm-temperate climate [19]. Within its range, the average annual rainfall is 39 to 64 inches (100-163 cm). The average maximum and minimum temperatures range from 97 to 25 degrees F (36 to minus 4 deg C) [41]. Saw palmetto usually grows on dry, very well-drained soils [2,30], and avoids swamps and poorly drained river terraces [10]. Preferred soils are "sterile" [30] and have very little mineral or organic content, as typified by fine quartose sands [5]. Soil descriptions are not ablsolute. Saw palmetto may also grow on peaty [40] and poorly drained sites [15]. Saw-palmetto is a common understory shrub of Southern pine flatwoods, growing on the Miami rock ridge pinelands, the dry pineland portions of Big Cypress National Preserve, and commercial plantations [9,35,40]. Elsewhere, it is a codominanant in hardwood- and conifer-dominated scrub communities [4,8,26,37]. In the Everglades region, saw-palmetto is the most common understory shrub in high hammocks and forms a characteristic ring around cypress (Taxodium spp.) heads and burnt-over tree islands. [11,31,37,40]. Strand, dry prairies, and southern oak (Quercus spp.)-pine (Pinus spp.) types indicate other sites where saw-palmetto might be common [8,35]. Common overstory associates include slash pine (Pinus elliottii), south Florida slash pine (P. elliottii var. densa), pond pine (P. serotina), longleaf pine (P. palustris), sand pine (P. clausa), loblolly pine (P. taeda), and cabbage palmetto (Sabel palmetto). Understory associates include gallberry (Ilex glabra), scrub live oak (Quercus virginiana var. geminata), scrub oak (Q. chapmanii), myrtle oak (Q. myrtlifolia), shrubby rosemary (Ceratiola ericoides), scrub palmetto (Sabel etonia), scrub mint (Conradina grandiflora), blazing star (Liatris tenuifolia), pawpaw (Asimina reticulata), scrub clover (Petalostemon feayi), ground blueberry (Vaccinuim myrsinites), and dodder (Cassytha filiformis) [4,21,30,41]. SUCCESSIONAL STATUS : A common understory species, saw-palmetto is shade tolerent and grows in both sunny and shaded habitats [10]. It is a prominent member of several Southern fire-climax communities and is a frequent invader of very dry [40] or frequently burned [37] habitats. SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT : Saw-palmetto blooms between April and July [10,19,32]. Maximum spadix initiation begins after the danger of frost is past and may be stimulated by rising temperatures. The fruits ripen in September and October. Maximum saw-palmetto growth occurs during the summer rainy season, achieving 80 percent of annual production between April and October [8,14,32].

FIRE ECOLOGY

SPECIES: Serenoa repens
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS : Saw-palmetto is exceptionally fire resistant [10] and thrives on frequently burned sites. It survives fire by resprouting from persistent root crowns and rhizomes [1,2]. POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY : survivor species; on-site surviving root crown or caudex survivor species; on-site surviving rhizomes

FIRE EFFECTS

SPECIES: Serenoa repens
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT : Saw-palmetto has very flammable foliage [33]. Most fires defoliate and top-kill it [1,3]. Saw-palmetto rhizomes survive most fires. Unusually severe fires may consume the soil's organic layer and/or sufficiently expose and heat the rhizomes to kill them and prevent regeneration [8,38]. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT : NO-ENTRY PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE : Saw-palmetto responds to fire by resprouting immediately [8,18,19]. Drawing on carbohydrate stores in the rhizomes, it initiates leaf production and vegetative reproduction, increasing stem density [20]. The response is so strong that winter-burned saw-palmetto will break winter dormancy and produce leaves and fruit out of season [1,19]. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE : Recovery of burned saw-palmetto stands is rapid. Cover may return to preburn levels in as little as 1 year [1,19], and plants burned in November can sprout a fully expanded leaf by January [20]. Generally, winter-burned stands recover faster than summer-burned stands because of the longer period of growth before the next winter dormancy [1]. The 1st year after a fire, stem density can be higher than preburn levels because of adventitious sprouting [27]. Two or three years later, the stand thins itself and density and crown coverage become equal to preburn conditions [20]. Burning reduces flowering and fruiting [19], possibly by causing saw-palmetto to exhaust its carbohydrate reserves in the regeneration effort. Recovery of carbohydrate reserves may take a year [20] or longer [23]. Frequent burning may favor the procumbent growth form over the erect one [38]. This Management Project Summary provides information on prescribed fire and postfire response of plant community species including saw-palmetto: Fire effects on 3 subtropical invasive plants in Florida and the Caribbean—-Natal grass, common bamboo, and white leadtree FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : Saw-palmetto is well adapted to fire, making it difficult to control. It can be held in check using fire, but it remains vigorous and recovers [40,22]. Very short fire-rotations (1 to 3 years) perpetuate saw-palmetto understories and kill pine seedlings on palmetto-prairies which might otherwise support well-stocked pine stands [40]. Summer fires are most effective at removing saw-palmetto top-growth [18]. The effects of fire suppression on saw-palmetto depends on the plant communities it occupies. Fire suppression may decrease saw-palmetto cover in scrub communities where other understory hardwoods can overtop it. In contrast, suppression, long rotations, and light fires cause Southern pinelands to become overgrown with saw-palmetto [7]. Overgrown saw-palmetto understories constitute fire hazards, which promote wildfires that may kill pine seedlings and saplings [8,40]. Tall saw-palmetto understories also carry wildfires into the overstory, killing mature trees [33,36]. Saw-palmetto is the largest contributor to understory fuels in the Florida pinelands [36]. Consult Ward [42] to predict particulate matter emmision rates from fireline intensity and flame length for prescribed fires in the saw-palmetto-gallberry type. Saw-palmetto foliage yields 2,150,000 calories per pound (4,800 dcCal/g) and is 34 percent ash [21]. To maintain fruit production for white-tailed deer, Fults [13] recommends burning saw-palmetto understories every 3 to 5 years.

REFERENCES

SPECIES: Serenoa repens
REFERENCES : 1. Abrahamson, Warren G. 1984. Post-fire recovery of Florida Lake Wales Ridge vegetation. American Journal of Botany. 71(1): 9-21. [9509] 2. Abrahamson, Warren G. 1984. Species response to fire on the Florida Lake Wales Ridge. American Journal of Botany. 71(1): 35-43. [9608] 3. Altobellis, A. T.; Hough, W. A. 1968. Controlling palmetto with fire and herbicides. Georgia Forest Res. Pap. 52. Macon, GA: Georgia Forest Research Council. 4 p. [12181] 4. Austin, Daniel F. 1976. Florida scrub. Florida Naturalist. 49(4): 2-5. [2900] 5. Breininger, D. R.; Schmalzer, P. A. 1990. Effects of fire and disturbance on plants and birds in Florida oak/ palmetto scrub community. American Midland Naturalist. 123(1): 64-74. [9875] 6. Callahan, J. L.; Barnett, C.; Cates, J. W. H. 1990. Palmetto prairie creation on phosphate-mined lands in central Florida. Restoration & Management Notes. 8(2): 94-95. [13833] 7. Clewell, Andre F. 1989. Natural history of wiregrass (Aristida stricta Michx., Gramineae). Natural Areas Journal. 9(4): 223-233. [10092] 8. Davison, Kathryn L.; Bratton, Susan P. 1988. Vegetation response and regrowth after fire on Cumberland Island National Seashore, Georgia. Castanea. 53(1): 47-65. [4483] 9. Duever, Michael J.; Meeder, John F.; Duever, Linda C. 1984. Ecosystems of the big cypress swamp. In: Ewel, Katherine Carter; Odum, Howard T., eds. Cypress swamps. Gainesville, FL: University of Florida Press: 294-303. [14853] 10. Duncan, Wilbur H.; Duncan, Marion B. 1988. Trees of the southeastern United States. Athens, GA: The University of Georgia Press. 322 p. [12764] 11. Egler, Frank E. 1952. Southeast saline Everglades vegetation, Florida, and its management. Vegetatio. 3: 213-265. [11479] 12. Eyre, F. H., ed. 1980. Forest cover types of the United States and Canada. Washington, DC: Society of American Foresters. 148 p. [905] 13. Fults, Gene A. 1991. Florida ranchers manage for deer. Rangelands. 13(1): 28-30. [14566] 14. Garrison, George A.; Bjugstad, Ardell J.; Duncan, Don A.; [and others]. 1977. Vegetation and environmental features of forest and range ecosystems. Agric. Handb. 475. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 68 p. [998] 15. Godfrey, Robert K. 1988. Trees, shrubs, and woody vines of northern Florida and adjacent Georgia and Alabama. Athens, GA: The University of Georgia Press. 734 p. [10239] 16. Hamilton, Robert J. 1981. Effects of prescribed fire on black bear populations in southern forests. In: Wood, Gene W., ed. Prescribed fire and wildlife in southern forests: Proceedings of a symposium; 1981 April 6-8; Myrtle Beach, SC. Georgetown, SC: Clemson University, Belle W. Baruch Forest Science Institute: 129-134. [14819] 17. Harlow, Richard F. 1961. Characteristics and status of Florida black bear. Transactions, 26th North American Wildlife Conference. 26: 481-495. [15402] 18. Hendricks, R. Gregory. 1983. Burn-chop-rest on flatwoods/bluestem range. Rangelands. 5(1): 11-12. [1127] 19. Hilmon, Junior Bristo. 1969. Autecology of saw palmetto (Serenoa repens (Bartr.) Small). Dissertation Abstracts. XX: [Pages unknown]. [14551] 20. Hilmon, J. B.; Hughes, R. H. 1965. Fire and forage in the wiregrass type. Journal of Range Management. 18: 251-254. [13858] 21. Hough, Walter A. 1969. Caloric value of some forest fuels of the southern United States. Res. Note SE-120. Asheville, NC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southeastern Forest Experiment Station. 6 p. [10517] 22. Hughes, Ralph H. 1975. The native vegetation in south Florida related to month of burning. Res. Note SE-222. Asheville, NC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southeastern Forest Experiment Station. 8 p. [14578] 23. Kalmbacher, R. S.; Boote, K. J.; Martin, R. G. 1983. Burning and 2,4,5-T application on mortality and carbohydrate reserves in saw-palmetto. Journal of Range Management. 36(1): 9-12. [11955] 24. Kartesz, John T.; Kartesz, Rosemarie. 1980. A synonymized checklist of the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. Volume II: The biota of North America. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press; in confederation with Anne H. Lindsey and C. Richie Bell, North Carolina Botanical Garden. 500 p. [6954] 25. Kuchler, A. W. 1964. Manual to accompany the map of potential vegetation of the conterminous United States. Special Publication No. 36. New York: American Geographical Society. 77 p. [1384] 26. Laessle, Albert M. 1958. The origin and successional relationship of sandhill vegetation and sand-pine scrub. Ecological Monographs. 28(4): 361-387. [9780] 27. Landers, J. Larry. 1981. The role of fire in bobwhite quail management. In: Wood, Gene W., ed. Prescribed fire and wildlife in southern forests: Proceedings of a symposium; 1981 April 6-8; Myrtle Beach, SC. Georgetown, SC: Clemson University, Belle W. Baruch Forest Science Institute: 73-80. [14812] 28. Lewis, Clifford E. 1980. Rock phosphate, chopping, and fire benefit forage and trees in south Florida. The Florida Cattleman. June: 28-29. [11868] 29. Lyon, L. Jack; Stickney, Peter F. 1976. Early vegetal succession following large northern Rocky Mountain wildfires. In: Proceedings, Tall Timbers fire ecology conference and Intermountain Fire Research Council fire and land management symposium; 1974 October 8-10; Missoula, MT. No. 14. Tallahassee, FL: Tall Timbers Research Station: 355-373. [1496] 30. Monk, Carl D. 1965. Southern mixed hardwood forest of northcentral Florida. Ecological Monographs. 35: 335-354. [9263] 31. Monk, Carl D.; Brown, Timothy W. 1965. Ecological consideration of cypress heads in north-central Florida. American Midland Naturalist. 74: 126-140. [10848] 32. Olson, David F., Jr.; Barnes, R. L. 1974. Serenoa repens (Bartr.) Small saw-palmetto. In: Schopmeyer, C. S., ed. Seeds of woody plants in the United States. Agric. Handb. 450. Washington, DC: U.SS. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 769-770. [7752] 33. Pehl, Charles E.; Red, Jane T.; Shelnutt, Henry E. 1986. Controlled burning and land treatment influences on chemical properties of a forest soil. Forest Ecology and Management. 17: 119-128. [11946] 34. Raunkiaer, C. 1934. The life forms of plants and statistical plant geography. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 632 p. [2843] 35. Richardson, Donald Robert. 1977. Vegetation of the Atlantic Coastal Ridge of Palm Beach County, Florida. Florida Scientist. 40(4): 281-330. [9644] 36. Sackett, Stephen S. 1975. Scheduling prescribed burns for hazard reduction in the southeast. Journal of Forestry. 73(3): 143-147. [11856] 37. Taylor, Dale L.; Herndon, Alan. 1981. Impact of 22 years of fire on understory hardwood shrubs in slash pine communities within Everglades National Park. Report T-640. Homestead, FL: National Park Service, South Florida Research Center, Everglades National Park. 30 p. [11961] 38. U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Department of the Interior; Range Seeding Equipment Committee. 1959. Handbook: Chemical control of range weeds. Washington, DC: [Publisher unknown]. 93 p. [12129] 39. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Soil Conservation Service. 1982. National list of scientific plant names. Vol. 1. List of plant names. SCS-TP-159. Washington, DC. 416 p. [11573] 40. Wade, Dale; Ewel, John; Hofstetter, Ronald. 1980. Fire in south Florida ecosystems. Gen. Tech. Rep. SE-17. Asheville, NC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southeastern Forest Experiment Station. 125 p. [10363] 41. Wade, Dale D.; Langdon, O. Gordon. 1990. Sabal palmetto (Walt.) Lodd. ex J. A. & J. H. Schult. cabbage palmetto. In: Burns, Russell M.; Honkala, Barbara H., technical coordinators. Silvics of North America. Vol. 2. Hardwoods. Agric. Handb. 654. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 762-767. [13806] 42. Ward, Darold E. 1983. Particulate matter emissions for fires in the palmetto-gallberry fuel type. Forest Science. 29(4): 761-770. [12273] 43. Little, Elbert L., Jr. 1979. Checklist of United States trees (native and naturalized). Agric. Handb. 541. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 375 p. [2952]


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