Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Dwarf Palmetto - Sabal minor   (Jacquin) Persoon
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Section 5 » Order Arecales » Family Arecaceae
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Author(Jacquin) Persoon
DistributionEssentially just in the Coastal Plain, north to Gates and Currituck counties. Mostly restricted to within 50 miles of the coast, though there are isolated records from Harnett and Anson counties -- where hopefully of natural occurrence. The Anson population occurs along Palmetto Branch of Brown Creek, so-named on topo maps; thus almost surely a natural occurrence. A population found in 2022 near the shore of Lake Townsend in Guilford County grows with Symplocarpus foetidus (no doubt natural here); but its provenance is uncertain.

This is a Southern species, but elsewhere it is not restricted to the lower Coastal Plain. It ranges from eastern NC to southern FL and central TX, and west to southeastern OK and central AR. It does not occur in the Mountains and is scarce in the Piedmont.
AbundanceUncommon and somewhat local in the Coastal Plain, most numerous in Tidewater counties and the Outer Banks. Extremely rare in the western Coastal Plain and southeastern Piedmont.
HabitatThis species occurs in moist/rich soils over marl or in other high pH sites. It favors moist areas within maritime forests, but it can also be found in rare Wet Marl Forests, swamps, bottomlands, and other moist forests with high pH soils.
PhenologyBlooms from May to July, and fruits from September to November.
IdentificationThis is a very distinct evergreen shrub that ranges only to about 3-4 feet tall. It has a few very large, fan-shaped leaves that are divided into numerous and narrow segments; the leaves are often 3 feet across. The stem is not visible above ground, unlike with Cabbage Palmetto (S. palmetto). It can be confused in NC only with seedlings of Cabbage Palmetto, but the latter species has filamentous margins to the segments and the segments have a midrib. Saw Palmetto (Serenoa repens) does not reach as far north as NC, and it has strongly armed leaf stalks that make walking through stands a painful experience.
Taxonomic CommentsNone

Other Common Name(s)Bluestem Palmetto
State RankS3
Global RankG5
State Status
US Status
USACE-agcpFACW link
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B.A. SorriePee Dee NWR, Palmetto Branch, July 2011. AnsonPhoto_natural
Floyd WilliamsFirst found in 2013. GatesPhoto_natural
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