Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Cabbage Palmetto - Sabal palmetto   (Walter) Loddiges ex J.A. & J.H. Schultes
Members of Arecaceae:
Members of Sabal with account distribution info or public map:
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Section 5 » Order Arecales » Family Arecaceae
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Author(Walter) Loddiges ex J.A. & J.H. Schultes
DistributionOccurs (natively) only in Brunswick County, on Bald Head Island (technically, Smith Island, which is composed of Bald Head Island, Middle Island, and Bluff Island -- from south to north, all of which are connected by a sand beach on the east [ocean] ends). Collection record for coastal Carteret County is correctly identified but likely not naturally occurring. Collections from Craven (NCU, NY) and Dare (NCU) counties are actually S. minor. The species also occurs in wooded areas near the N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher in New Hanover County, only a few miles north of Bald Head Island. This population is treated on the map as Provenance Uncertain.

This is a strictly coastal species in NC, but farther south it does occur somewhat farther inland, to being widespread across all of FL; occurrences farther west are apparently introductions/plantings.
AbundanceCommon and conspicuous at Bald Head Island, but elsewhere, even on the adjacent mainland it is either absent or is likely planted/escaped. Due to its very limited range, it is a State Threatened species.
HabitatIn NC, it is restricted to maritime forests and such forest edges, including margins of tidal marshes.
PhenologyBlooms in July, and fruits in October and November.
IdentificationThis is one of the easiest plants in NC to identify, at least when not at seedling/sapling age. It is a small to medium evergreen tree, with large fan-shaped leaves; it ranges to about 30-35 feet tall. The trunk is gray and somewhat smooth in the lower portions, but close to the crown there are numerous leaf bases still clinging to the trunk. The leaves are divided into numerous fan-like segments, and reach about 3 feet across. Lower leaves are typically seen drooping down toward the trunk, giving the tree a rounded crown. The leaves have filamentous margins and a midrib, at least on the basal portions of the segments. Though numerically one of the least numerous trees in the wild in NC, a visit to Bald Head [Smith] Island will easily allow you to become familiar with it. Of course, it can be seen as planted individuals in our southern coastal towns, but to see a countable one in the wild, you must visit Bald Head.
Taxonomic CommentsNone

Other Common Name(s)Cabbage Palm, Sabal Palm, Blue Palmetto, Carolina Palmetto
State RankS1
Global RankG5
State StatusT
US Status
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B.A. SorriePhoto taken 1993, Andros Island, Bahamas. Photo_non_NCPhoto_non_NC
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