Index of Species Information

SPECIES:  Sabal palmetto


SPECIES: Sabal palmetto
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION : Van Deelen, Timothy R. 1991. Sabal palmetto. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: [].
ABBREVIATION : SABPAL SYNONYMS : Sabal jamesiana Small SCS PLANT CODE : SAPA COMMON NAMES : cabbage palmetto TAXONOMY : The currently accepted scientific name for cabbage palmetto is Sabal palmetto (Walt.) Lodd. (Arecaceae). There are no infrataxa [22]. LIFE FORM : Tree FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS : No special status OTHER STATUS : NO-ENTRY


SPECIES: Sabal palmetto
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION : Cabbage palmetto grows throughout peninsular Florida and the Florida Keys. It grows in the coastal areas of the Florida panhandle, Georgia, and South Carolina [19,22]. It is cultivated in Hawaii [23]. Outside of the United States, cabbage palmetto occurs in the Bahamas and Cuba [19,22]. ECOSYSTEMS : FRES12 Longleaf - slash pine FRES13 Loblolly - shortleaf pine FRES14 Oak - pine FRES16 Oak - gum - cypress FRES41 Wet grasslands STATES : FL GA HI SC BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS : NO-ENTRY KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS : K079 Palmetto prairie K090 Live oak - sea oats K092 Everglades K112 Southern mixed forest K115 Sand pine scrub K116 Subtropical pine forest SAF COVER TYPES : 70 Longleaf pine 73 Southern redcedar 74 Cabbage palmetto 84 Slash pine 105 Tropical hardwoods 111 South Florida slash pine SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES : NO-ENTRY HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES : In southern Florida, cabbage palmetto is a common component of high and low hammock, tree island, and mixed conifer-hardwood swamp communities [2,3,7,9,10,13,15]. Elsewhere it grows in more xeric scrub and Miami rock-ridge inland communities [4,15]. In the Florida Panhandle, Georgia, and South Carolina, cabbage palmetto grows within 12 miles (20 km) of the coast. It is a componenet of several diverse plant communities, including those characteristic of dunes, salt flats, barrier islands, and cactus thickets [1]. Associates are many and varied because of the diversity of Florida's flora and the ecological amplitude of cabbage palmetto. Overstory associates include south Florida slash pine (Pinus elliottii var. densa), slash pine (P. elliottii var. elliottii), pond pine (P. serotina), loblolly pine (P. taeda), longleaf pine (P. palustris), eastern redcedar (Juniperus virginiana), various evergreen oaks (Quercus spp.), loblolly-bay (Gordonia lasianthus), red bay (Persea borbonia), magnolia (Magnolia spp.), sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua), red maple (Acer rubrum), baldcypress (Taxodium spp.), pignut hickory (Carya glabra), gumbo-limbo (Bursera simaruba), and cocoplum (Chrysobalanus icaco). Understory associates include gallberry (Ilex glabra), huckleberries (Gaylussacia spp.), blueberries (Vaccinium spp.), lyonias (Lyonia spp.), southern bayberry (Merica cerifera), holly (Ilex spp.), saw-palmetto (Serenoa repens), greenbriar (Smilax spp.), bracken fern (Pteridium spp.), poison-ivy (Toxicodendron radicans), bluestem (Andropogon spp.), sawgrass (Cladium jamaicensis), and beak rush (Rhynchospora spp.). Exotic associates and probable competitors include casuarina (Casuarina spp.), melaleuca (Melaleuca quinquenervia), coconut (Cocos nucifera), and Brazilian peppertree (Schinus terebinthifolia).


SPECIES: Sabal palmetto
WOOD PRODUCTS VALUE : Cabbage palmetto wood is sea-worm resistant, splinter resistant, and unusual looking (no growth rings). It is used for warf pilings, poles, broom handles, and ornamental table tops [19,21]. IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE : Black bears, raccoons, bats, northern bobwhites, wild turkeys, ring-necked gulls, cardinals, great-tailed grackles, blue jays, and scrub jays all eat cabbage palmetto fruit [19,23]. White-tailed deer also eat the fruit, but cabbage palmetto foliage is not browsed [13]. PALATABILITY : NO-ENTRY NUTRITIONAL VALUE : NO-ENTRY COVER VALUE : NO-ENTRY VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES : Cabbage palmetto is the most wind-resistant tree in southern Florida and is relatively resistant to damaging insects and other pathogens [19]. It tolerates salt spray and brackish water [23]. These attributes make cabbage palmetto potentially useful for disturbed site rehabilitation. Propagation of cabbage palmetto in the nursery requires the collection of ripe fruits. Seeds can be separated with a macerator or by rubbing the fruit on hardware cloth. Seeds require no pretreatment to break dormancy, but stratification in moist sand for 30 days at 38 degrees F (3 deg C) speeds germination. Seeds should be planted 0.5 to 1 inch (1.5-3 cm) deep in light soil and should not be allowed to dry out. There are about 1,650 dried seeds per pound (3,630/kg) [13]. OTHER USES AND VALUES : The terminal bud of cabbage palmetto is edible and tastes somewhat like cabbage (Brassica spp.)--hence the name. Removal of the bud kills the tree. Cabbage palmetto leaves are used to make canes, scrub brushes, thatch, and baskets. Bees use its pollen. Cabbage palmetto is a popular ornamental [19,23]. OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : The extensive use of cabbage palmetto for urban landscaping is depleting natural stocks. Cabbage palmetto management is clearly needed, though untried. Wade and Langdon [19] suggest that cabbage palmetto silviculture should be fairly simple. Even and uneven-aged management of mixed or pure stands are appropriate. Site drainage and aerial applications of 2-4-D will damage cabbage palmetto stands [19].


SPECIES: Sabal palmetto
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS : The cabbage palmetto is an erect, unbranched palm tree. It grows to a height of 33 to 82 feet (10-25 m) with a stem diameter of 12 to 24 inches (30-60 cm). Typically the stem diameter is uniform from the base to the crown. Leaf bases or "boots" may persist on the stem or slough off, giving the stem a smooth appearance [5,19,21]. Cabbage palmetto leaves are fan-shaped, palmately divided, and spineless. They are borne on a prominately-arching midrib and may be 3 to 9 feet (1-3 m) long. Cabbage palmetto flowers are perfect, showy, and creamy to yellowish white. They are borne in arching or drooping clusters. The fruit is a black, fleshy, drupe that contains a single brown spherical seed [13]. Sargent (1933 in [19]) described the cabbage palmetto root system as a short, bulbous, underground stem surrounded by a dense mass of contorted roots with smaller, light orange roots penetrating the soil to a depth of 15 to 20 feet (4.6-6.1 m). RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM : Phanerophyte REGENERATION PROCESSES : Cabbage palmetto flowers are insect pollinated [13,19,23]. Fruits persist on the spadix until removed by wind, rain, or birds such as ringed-neck gulls, fish crows, cardinals, and blue jays. On the ground, cabbage palmetto seeds are eaten or cached by small mammals. Birds and mammals act as dispersal agents. Cabbage palmetto seeds are buoyant and salt resistant. Near coastal areas, water is an important means of seed dispersal as well [23]. Meyers (1977 in [19]) reports that seed survival is low. Of roughly 620,000 seeds produced per acre (1,500,000/ha), only about 9 percent survive frugivory. Seeds exposed to sunlight for long periods do not germinate well. The first year's growth consists of a primary root, one fully expanded leaf, and a rhizomatous stem. There is no information on vegetative growth [19]. SITE CHARACTERISTICS : Climate: Cabbage palmetto grows in a humid, subtropical to warm-temperate climate. 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 -4 deg C). Low winter temperatures probably limit cabbage palmetto's northern range. Soils: Cabbage palmetto tolerates a wide range of soil acidities, salinities, and drainage conditions. It grows best on neutral to alkaline soils which are rich in calcium. Because of its calcium affinity, cabbage palmetto frequently grows near exposed calcareous sands, marls, and limestones. Cabbage palmetto prefers poorly to very poorly drained soils and often grows on the edge of freshwater and brackish wetlands. It tolerates salt and occasional flooding. The Entisol, Alfisol, Ultisol, and Spodosol soil orders all support cabbage palmetto. At the northern limit of its range, cabbage palmetto grows mainly on the baysides of coastal dunes. In central Florida it grows on periodically flooded lowlands, relict inland dunes, and ridges below 100 feet (30 m). With drainage, cabbage palmetto invades the once seasonally inundated interhammock glades. Along freshwater sources, cabbage palmetto can form pure stands covering up to 25 acres (10 ha). Such stands are called "river hammocks" if along a river, and "cabbage-palm hammocks" or "palm savannas" if inland [1]. Cabbage palmetto growth may indicate sites influenced by subtropical conditions [12] or frequent fires [15]. SUCCESSIONAL STATUS : The successional status of cabbage palmetto is disputed. Wade and Langdon [19] described it as shade-tolerant, and characteristic of climatic climax, and fire climax communities. Daubenmire [4], however, described it as an early seral, woody invader of open savannas. Similarly, Zona [23] reported that it is shade intolerant and that seedlings under a closed canopy remain suppressed and form no aboveground stem. Stem elongation and sexual maturation await gap formation in the canopy. In more open habitats along forest edges, on dunes, and in abandoned fields, growth and recruitment are immediate with no suppressed stage. Cabbage palmetto thrives in anthropogenic habitats. SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT : Cabbage palmetto flowers from April to August, depending on latitude. Fruits begin to develop in the fall and are mature by winter [13,19,23].


SPECIES: Sabal palmetto
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS : Cabbage palmetto grows in areas where ground fires are frequent and common but crown fires are rare. It has a well-protected, deeply imbedded terminal bud, which is held aloft on a fire-resistant trunk. It survives fire [19]. POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY : not applicable


SPECIES: Sabal palmetto
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT : Cabbage palmettos probably sustain only superficial damage from most fires. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT : When growing on organic soil or soil with a deep organic layer, very severe fires may consume the soil itself, killing cabbage palmettos by root damage and lack of mechanical support [19]. PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE : Most fires probably favor cabbage palmetto growth by removing competition. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE : Frequent fires allow cabbage palmetto to form pure stands and invade mixed stands [19]. Twenty-one years of fires in Everglades National Park resulted in a net increase in cabbage palmetto stems [17]. Egler wrote that the increase in fire severity and decrease in fire frequency following European settlement allowed cabbage palmettos to dominate high hammock communities in southern Florida [6]. FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : NO-ENTRY


SPECIES: Sabal palmetto
REFERENCES : 1. Alexander, Taylor R. 1955. Observations on the ecology of the low hammocks of southern Florida. Journal of the Florida Academy of Sciences. 18(1): 21-27. [11467] 2. Alexander, Taylor R. 1958. High hammock vegetation of the southern Florida mainland. Quarterly Journal of the Florida Academy of Sciences. 21(4): 293-298. [11468] 3. Austin, Daniel F.; Posin, Freda R.; Burch, James N. 1987. Scrub species patterns on the Atlantic Coastal Ridge, Florida. Journal of Coastal Research. 3(4): 491-498. [9340] 4. Daubenmire, Rexford. 1990. The Magnolia grandiflora-Quercus virginiana forest of Florida. American Midland Naturalist. 123: 331-347. [10871] 5. Duncan, Wilbur H.; Duncan, Marion B. 1988. Trees of the southeastern United States. Athens, GA: The University of Georgia Press. 322 p. [12764] 6. Egler, Frank E. 1952. Southeast saline Everglades vegetation, Florida, and its management. Vegetatio. 3: 213-265. [11479] 7. Eyre, F. H., ed. 1980. Forest cover types of the United States and Canada. Washington, DC: Society of American Foresters. 148 p. [905] 8. 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] 9. Klukas, Richard W. 1973. Control burn activities in Everglades National Park. In: Proceedings, annual Tall Timbers fire ecology conference; 1972 June 8-9; Lubbock, TX. Number 12. Tallahassee, FL: Tall Timbers Research Station: 397-425. [8476] 10. 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] 11. Loveless, Charles M. 1959. A study of the vegetation in the Florida Everglades. Ecology. 40(1): 1-9. [11478] 12. Monk, Carl D. 1966. An ecological study of hardwood swamps in north-central Florida. Ecology. 47: 649-654. [10802] 13. Olson, David F., Jr.; Barnes, R. L. 1974. Sabal Adans. palmetto. In: Schopmeyer, C. S., ed. Seeds of woody plants in the United States. Agriculture Handbook No. 450. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 744-745. [7744] 14. Oosting, Henry J. 1954. Ecological processes and vegetation of the maritime strand in the southeastern United States. Botanical Review. 20: 226-262. [10730] 15. Raunkiaer, C. 1934. The life forms of plants and statistical plant geography. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 632 p. [2843] 16. Richardson, Donald Robert. 1977. Vegetation of the Atlantic Coastal Ridge of Palm Beach County, Florida. Florida Scientist. 40(4): 281-330. [9644] 17. 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] 18. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Soil Conservation Service. 1994. Plants of the U.S.--alphabetical listing. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Soil Conservation Service. 954 p. [23104] 19. 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] 20. 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] 21. Walker, Laurence C. 1990. Forests: A naturalist's guide to trees and forest ecology. Wiley Nature Editions. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 288 p. [13763] 22. Wunderlin, Richard P. 1982. Guide to the vascular plants of central Florida. Tampa, FL: University Presses of Florida, University of South Florida. 472 p. [13125] 22. Zona, Scott. 1990. A monograph of Sabal (Arecaceae: Coryphoideae). Aliso. 12(4): 583-666. [12476] 23. St. John, Harold. 1973. List and summary of the flowering plants in the Hawaiian islands. Hong Kong: Cathay Press Limited. 519 p. [25354]

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