| Sabal (SAH-bahl) |
Madeira. Photo by Dr. Jose Carvalho/Palmweb.
Habitat and DistributionSabal mauritiiformis is found in Belize, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras,
Sabal mauritiiformis is a fan palm with solitary, slender stems, which is usually 15 to 20 metres (49 to 66 ft) tall and 15–20 centimetres (6–8 in) in diameter. Plants have about 10–25 leaves, each with 90–150 leaflets. The inflorescences, which are branched and longer than the leaves, bear pear-shaped to globose, black fruit. The fruit are 0.8–1.1 centimetres (0.3–0.4 in) in diameter. Editing by edric.
Cold Hardiness Zone: 9b
Comments and Curiosities
Uses: Leaves used for thatch, make hats and crafts, and petioles are used for fencing.
This is a tillering palm, it exhibits saxophone style root growth (it has a heel), keep top third of heel above soil elevation!
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.)...
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 thats 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.) 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)
"Sabal mauritiiformis is probably the fastest-growing of the 20 or so species of Sabal. Native from northern South America to southern Mexico, this palm produces fairly large, deeply-split circular leaves — reminiscent of those of Licuala — even before the trunk develops. And the undersides of the leaves are mildly silvery. Eventually this palm will reach 30-60 ft. tall, with a trunk about a foot in diameter." (Lenny Goldstein)
"Like the more common Sabals, S. mauritiiformis features a criss-cross pattern of old leaf bases on the trunk, but what is special about it is that the leaf bases remain green for a long time. In the nursery, we are growing this palm in two sites. In one place, we’re raising “twins,” and in the other location we have the single specimen shown in the photos above, and we look forward to many years of good looks and bountiful seed production. The good news for those who want a plant right now is that we have available newly-potted seedlings of Sabal mauritiiformis obtained from an outside seed source.” (Lenny Goldstein)
"This palm would make a striking addition to your collection, and it is cold-hardy into the upper 20s. Versatile as well, it can be planted in full sun or partial shade." (Lenny Goldstein)
"Great palm for Southern California, though seems to do better inland than near the coast. Loves heat! Is one of the faster growing Sabals (here in So Cal where most are pretty slow - in Florida might be more average). The leaves of this species are more split than most, and highly ornamental. Some of the slower, shaded specimens develop huge, deeply split bright green leaves that look more like an exotic Licuala species than a Sabal. As it forms a trunk, the greenish color of the trunk stays longer, also making it very ornamental. Older palms in humid rainy climates tend to lose the leaf bases, or 'boots' and have smooth, pale to olive-green, ringed trunks. Often confused with Sabal yapa, which has a similar leaf shape.. but the leaves of S. yapa have a bluish cast underneath, and the palm is sometimes a beafier palm, while S mauritiiformis has a relatively skinny trunk for a Sabal. However, I still am at a loss to tell them apart most of the time. It's one of the least cold tolerant Sabals, though, and mine has gotten leaf damage almost every year below 29 F." (Geoff Stein)
This palm is so named not because it comes from Mauritius, but because of its resemblance to Mauritia! We have described this latter palm as looking like an exploding firework, and this Sabal is not too far from that. Deeply split, large, fan-shaped leaves with narrow segments hanging down makes it unique in the genus and a real collector's item. Easy germination, easy care, fast growth, and spectacular appearance. It has a patchy distribution in Mexico, Central America, and the north of South America. (RPS.com)
Feast your eyes on this one, Sabal Mauritiiformis is by far the most tropical looking Sabal and unfortunately, it's also the least hardy. Reports are coming in that it gets frost damage anywhere between 25 F and 28 F in fully exposed areas, but with overhead protection, it can take down to maybe 24F for short times without any damage. It's also quite shade tolerant, and it's fast growing. However, it likes heat, and will be a slow grower in cooler Summer areas. In Northern California this is a good palm for sunset zone 16 and may grow in frost protected locations in zone 15. Growth may be more limited in zone 17, especially in those parts where there is no Summer heat at all. If your July average isn't above 68 F, then it's not worth it to try this one. I got interested in Sabal Mauritiiformis when I saw one growing in Southern California, so it does grow in California, slowly but steadily. I have yet to locate a specimen in Northern California. The closest specimen I found is in Ventura, an area with comparable cool temperatures to our own. This is what you can expect in full sun. I suspect shade grown specimens would look better here. (Dr. Axel Kratel)
- Glossary of Palm Terms
- MODERN BOTANICAL LATIN
- "Just To Be Clear"
- THE SAXOPHONE STYLE ROOT GROWTH (HEEL)
Phonetic spelling of Latin names by edric.
Special thanks to Geoff Stein, (Palmbob) for his hundreds of photos.
Special thanks to Palmweb.org, 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.