Sabal maritima

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Sabal (SAH-bahl)
maritima (mahr-ih-TEE-mah)
7142 Sabal maritima Santa Lucia CU.jpg
Santa Lucia, Camagüey, Cuba. Photo by Johann Wagner.
Scientific Classification
Genus: Sabal (SAH-bahl)
maritima (mahr-ih-TEE-mah)
Sabal jamaicensis (1908)
Native Continent
Habit: Solitary
Leaf type: Palmate
Survivability index
Common names
Bull Thatch Palm

Habitat and Distribution

Sabal maritima is endemic to Cuba, and Jamaica.
Cuba. Photo by Jason Schoneman.


Sabal maritima, is a fan palm with a solitary, stout trunk, which grows up to 15 metres (49 ft.) tall, and 25–40 centimetres (10–16 in.) in diameter. Crown holds about 25 costapalmate leaves, with recurving leaf tips, each with 70–110 leaflets. The inflorescences, which are branched, and as long as the leaves, they bear pear-shaped to globose, black fruit. The fruit are 0.8–1.4 centimetres (0.3–0.6 in.) in diameter. Editing by edric.


Full sun, moderate water, well drained position. Hardiness USDA zones, 9A-11.

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!

Andrew Henderson and colleagues noted that Sabal maritima, S. causiarum and S. domingensis form a species complex that may constitute a single species. The species are readily distinguished on the basis of fruit size and shape. Sabal domingensis has pyriform fruit, 11.5-14.1 (12.7 ± 0.7) mm in diameter and 11.0-14.4 (13.1 ± 1.0) mm high. Sabal causiarum has spherical or occasionally oblate-pyriform fruit, 7.1-10.8 (9.8 ± 0.5) mm in diameter and 7.5-10.4 (9.4 ± 0.7). Sabal maritima has oblate-pyriform to oblate-spherical fruit, 8.5-14.2 mm in diameter, 8.4 - 1 2.6 mm high. A similar size difference is found in the seeds: 8.0-10.4 mm in diameter, 5.1-7.1 mm high for S. domingensis versus 5.9-7.8 mm in diameter, 4.3-5.7 mm high for S. causiarum and 6.5-9.7mm in diameter, 4.5-6.2mm high, with a smooth (rarely some-what beaked) funicular remnant.

Another difference is that the petioles of S. maritima are densely covered with light-colored scales and appearing whitish or tan with a small, triangular to square-shape ligule at petiole base. S. maritima also has a rachillae with very crowded flowers, whereas the flowers are not crowded much in S. causiarum. Donald Hodel also mentions that Sabal causiarum can be distinguished from S. domingensis and S. causiarum by the presence of conspicuous, large, tan, flap-like ligules at petiole base. This characteristic is not mentioned in Scott Zona’s 1990 monograph of Sabal.

Diagnostic features: "The two species are similar, but S. maritima has the young petioles densely covered with light brown scales (which tend to fall off as the leaf ages, so look for this on the youngest leaves in the crown). An even easier distinguishing feature is the density of flowers on the rachillae. In S. martima, the flowers are really crowded on the rachillae. They even touch one another. Not so in S. causiarum, where the flowers are not crowded at all." (Dr. Scott Zona)

A large palmetto that is native to Cuba and Jamaica. While closely related to S. causiarum and S. domingensis, it has a thinner, taller trunk and upright inflorescences. A robust, easy, and fairly fast growing palm for warm temperate to tropical climates. (

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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