Plant of the Week: Serenoa repens (Saw Palmetto)

By on February 3, 2011.

Serenoa repens: Saw palmettos are indicative of many ecosystems in the Southeast and particularly Florida.  These small, multi-branching, hardy palms may be the scourge of your hike if you don’t remember to wear pants as spiny stems carve ‘saw’ like lacerations across a leg. Slow growing and difficult to transplant, saw palmettos on a property are often worked into schemes rather than spec’d due to their abundance naturally and their slow-growing habit with transplant difficulties. Never the less, nurseries across the SE stock them in several sizes and varieties.

  • Size/Habit/Lifetime:  Long-living and fire resistant. The only native, multi-trunked palm. Height usually 3-6’, but can be found in the wild upwards of 20’. Width grows with age as more trunks fill in and spread out, usually 6’ when mature but wider with age. Hardy to zone 7.


  • Culture: Needs full sun but tolerant in partial shade.Very tolerant of low nutrient deep sandy soils as well as bottomland flood plains. Virtually maintenance free. Very suitable to most locations.

  • Leaf/Stem: Leaves are palmate, or fan shaped, on petioles 2-4’ long. Leaves are 2-3’ wide. Trunks are sprawling to erect with 5” diameter. Leaf bases are present on trunk like other palms.

    DSC01770

    • Flower/Fruit: Flowers are fairly inconspicuous maturing to yellow then black fruits on branching racemes (stalks).
    • Notable Facts: A cultivar named Cerinea (above), has silver-bluish leaves and can be found naturally in southeast Florida or at nurseries. The berries have been used for medicine by Indians and present day for urinary health and some forms of benign cancers. Palmetto berries are still legally and illegally harvested when demand is high.


    One Comment

    1. Some studies show that saw palmetto is as effective in treating symptoms as finasteride (Proscar) without side effects, such as loss of libido. Other studies suggest that saw palmetto may actually shrink the size of the prostate gland. Due to the short duration (usually less than 3 months) of these studies, it is not possible to say for sure whether saw palmetto is truly effective for preventing complications of BPH. In fact, a well-conducted study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that saw palmetto was no better than placebo in relieving the signs and symptoms of BPH.'”,.

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