Serenoa repens

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Serenoa (sehr-eh-NO-ah)
repens (REH-penz)
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Home, South Miami, Florida. Photo by Dr. Scott Zona
Scientific Classification
Genus: Serenoa (sehr-eh-NO-ah)
repens (REH-penz)
None set.
Native Continent
Habit: Clustering
Leaf type: Costapalmate
Survivability index
Common names
Saw Palmetto

Habitat and Distribution

Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina. Saw palmetto
Portion of Rachilla with Flowers Not Borne in Pits. Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, Florida. Photo by Dr. Carl E. Lewis/Palmweb
occurs naturally on the coastal plain from South Carolina to southeastern Louisiana. It grows in a wide range of habitats from seaside sand dunes and dry scrub to moist forests, pine flatwoods and even wetlands. Saw palmetto can be the dominant ground cover in certain southeastern pine forests, sometimes covering hundreds of acres.


Saw palmetto is a small hardy fan palm whose stem usually remains just above ground or runs just along the surface (decumbent). In some cases, it develops an erect or arching trunk that may lift the whorl of leaves 2-16 ft (0.6-5 m) above ground. The palmate leaves are 2-3 ft (0.6-0.9 m) across and green or bluish green. The cluster of leaves gets about 4-6 ft (1.2-1.8 m) high with a similar spread. In the wild, saw palmetto often grows in clumps 20 ft (6 m) or more in diameter. The petioles (leaf stems) are about 2 ft (0.6 m) long and sharply saw-toothed. The fruits are round, black when ripe and about an inch in diameter. Growth rate: slow. Height: 5 to 10 feet. Spread: 4 to 10 feet. Trunk: showy; typically multi-trunked or clustering stems. Growth habit: Solitary and Clustering. Plant density: open. Texture: medium. Leaf arrangement: alternate. Leaf margin: parted. Leaf shape: star-shaped. Leaf venation: palmately compound. Leaf blade length: more than 36 inches. Leaf color: silver/gray; blue or blue-green or green. Flower color: yellow-white. Flower characteristic: spring flowering; pleasant fragrance. Fruit shape: oval. Fruit length: .5 to 1 inch. Fruit cover: fleshy. Fruit color: black when ripe. Fruit characteristic: inconspicuous and not showy. Editing by edric.


Light requirement: plant grows in part shade/part sun; plant grows in the shade. Soil tolerances: alkaline; clay; sand; acidic; loam. Drought tolerance: high. Soil salt tolerances: good. Plant spacing: 36 to 60 inches. Very cold hardy. Saw palmetto should be planted on 3- to 5-foot centers to establish a new mass planting. They make a wonderful ground cover effect beneath existing or newly planted trees. Upright plants can be grown into beautiful multi-stemmed specimens but these are not common and quite expensive. Propagation is usually by seed but seedlings grow very slowly.

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Comments and Curiosities

The variety sericea, silver Saw Palmetto, is recognized by some authorities and has beautiful silver leaves.

Etymology: The generic name honors American botanist Sereno Watson.

Uses: The berries of saw palmetto are used as a treatment for benign prostatic hyperplasia or enlarged prostate gland. They are also used as a diuretic to tone the bladder, improve urinary flow, and decrease urinary frequency. They may help prevent prostate cancer. Saw palmetto berries have always been a valuable food source for wildlife. As their effectiveness as a treatment for various human disorders is confirmed their value has steadily increased. Wild creatures must now compete with human collectors for the saw palmetto fruits. Florida landowners are reporting cases of "saw palmetto rustling" where gangs of pickers move in and strip and area of fruit within a few hours. (

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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