Sabal yapa

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Sabal (SAH-bahl)
yapa (YAH-pah)
Scientific Classification
Genus: Sabal (SAH-bahl)
yapa (YAH-pah)
None set.
Native Continent
Habit: Solitary
Leaf type: Costapalmate
Height: 40 ft
Trunk diameter: 12 in
Sun exposure: sun/shade
Survivability index
Common names
Huano Palm, Bay Palmetto, Thatch palm

Habitat and Distribution

Sabal yapa Belize, Cuba, Mexico Southeast. Low-lying areas on well-drained, limestone soils. The plant originally grew mainly in deciduous woodlands,
Belize. Photo by Scott SC.
but with habitat destruction it is found persisting in open areas.


Sabal yapa is a single-stemmed, evergreen palm growing up to 20 metres tall. The unbranched stem can be 15 - 26 cm in diameter; it is topped by a crown of 15 - 20 fan-shaped leaves. Plants are often left growing when the forest is cleared for agriculture so that they can be used as a source of thatch material. They are also cultivated in plantations to provide their leaves. (Field Guide to the Palms of the Americas Dr. Henderson A.; Dr. Galeano G.; Dr. Bernal R.)

Caribbean Sabal palm with grey-blue leaves and a bright cream-yellow costa. Juveniles have very wide segments, while adult palms have deeply split blades with thin segments. This palm can take short light frosts. It is a bit more hardy than the similar species Sabal mauritiiformis. Not as hardy as Sabal palmetto, S.minor or others. (

Arborescent palm; leaves costapalmate; inflorescence borne among the leaf crown, much-branched; flowers are bisexual; fruits fleshy. Editing by edric.


It prefers limestone-based calcareous soils. tropics and subtropics. Grows best in a sunny position. Prefers a moist, but well drained soil. A slow growing palm. Cold Hardiness Zone: 9b

They seem to have some drought tolerance but get really ratty looking if it is prolonged. In the shade they handle drought fine. The leaf skeletonizers really love this Sabal too. ( H.P. Leu Gardens Botanist Eric S.)

PFC for PP.png

Comments and Curiosities

This is a tillering palm, it exhibits saxophone style root growth (it has a heel), keep top third of heel above soil elevation!

Uses: Fruit extracts are administered as sedative and to stimulate the appetite, Fronds from this palm are used in thatch roofs. Fruits fleshy, edible.

Diagnostic features: Some things about Yapa first.

1.) This palm, when seen in gardens around here, has two forms. Big and small. I have no clue why but one looks like a dwarf of the other. So.. size does not help split the two.

2.) Yapa has a leaf like Mauritiiformis but the two are way different upon close inspection. If you can see both together it will be obvious. I like to tell people that Yapa has Unevenly split and unevenly drooping leaflets. It also has the same color on top of the leaf as below. No matter what shade you call it. This is a dead give away!

3.) Yapa has a very rough trunk and does not hold old leaf bases with age. Note:The leaf basses that are held turn brown in less than a year. The trunk can have a "stepped" appearance from the old leaf scars. (watch out 'cause Mauritiiformis has this too, but is smoother between leaf scars.)...

S. Mauritiiformis:
1.) This palm can be huge if in a shady area. It also looks fantastic in the shade as this also means less wind to tear the leaves! In the full sun it will be much smaller but still can grow tall.

2.) The leaf is Bi-color. The top is a different color than the bottom. Forget about the semantics of what shade of blues (hey that's rock and roll) it is is flat out bi-color! Also the leaflets are split fairly evenly and they droop in a more constant length from the hastula. A much cleaner and architecturally pleasing look. Yapa look ratty in comparison.

3.) S. Mauritiiformis likes to hold its leaf bases. If not cut off they will break off a foot or so from the trunk (self cleaning if you will) and the leaf base will stay on AND remain green for years. Only Sabal I know that looks like this. (Ken Johnson)

This palm grows in Belize and Cuba. It prefers alkaline soils. Fronds which are deeply cut are quite large.

"Attractive large deeply split-leaf fan palm from Central America- looks a lot like S mauritiiformis, only leaves have a slightly more glaucous look underneath, and tree itself somewhat more robust (though I have trouble telling the two apart). This plant is less common in cultivation than S mauritiiformis. For me, in southern California, it has been a reliable grower, but a bit slower than S mauritiiformis, as least as a seedling." (Geoff Stein)

External Links


Phonetic spelling of Latin names by edric.

Special thanks to Geoff Stein, (Palmbob) for his hundreds of photos.

Special thanks to, Dr. John Dransfield, Dr. Bill Baker & team, for their volumes of information and photos.

Glossary of Palm Terms; Based on the glossary in Dransfield, J., N.W. Uhl, C.B. Asmussen-Lange, W.J. Baker, M.M. Harley & C.E. Lewis. 2008. Genera Palmarum - Evolution and Classification of the Palms. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. All images copyright of the artists and photographers (see images for credits).

Many Special Thanks to Ed Vaile for his long hours of tireless editing and numerous contributions.

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