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Sabal palmetto
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Monocots
Clade: Commelinids
Order: Arecales
Family: Arecaceae
Subfamily: Coryphoideae
Tribe: Sabaleae
Genus: Sabal
Type species
Sabal adansonii

Sabal is a genus of New World palms (or fan-palms). Currently, there are 17 recognized species of Sabal, including one hybrid species.[4]


The species are native to the subtropical and tropical regions of the Americas, from the Gulf Coast/South Atlantic states in the Southeastern United States, south through the Caribbean, Mexico, and Central America to Colombia and Venezuela.


Members of this genus are typically identified by the leaves which originate from a bare, unarmed petiole in a fan-like structure. All members of this genus have a costa (or midrib) that extends into the leaf blade. This midrib can vary in length; and it is due to this variation that leaf blades of certain species of Sabal are strongly curved or strongly costapalmate (as in Sabal palmetto and Sabal etonia) or weakly curved (almost flattened), weakly costapalmate, (as in Sabal minor). Like many other palms, the fruit of Sabal are drupe, that typically change from green to black when mature.


The name Sabal was first applied to members of the group by Michel Adanson in the 18th century.[5] Previous names that this genus was associated with include Corypha, Chamaerops, Rhapis.[6][5] This section highlights important phylogenetic work done within the genus Sabal.

In 1990, Scott Zona outlined key morphological and anatomical characters that he used to analyze species relationships of Sabal. Through this analysis of characters, Zona produced a cladogram that portrays evolutionary relationships amongst 15 species of Sabal.[6] Based on the distribution of species within his cladogram, Zona recognized four distinct clades.[6] The clades within his study include (Clade 1) Sabal minor; (Clade 2) Sabal bermudana, Sabal palmetto, Sabal miamiensis, and Sabal etonia; (Clade 3) Sabal maritima, Sabal domingensis, Sabal causiarum, Sabal maurittiformis, Sabal yapa, Sabal mexicana, and Sabal guatemalensis; (Clade 4) Sabal uresana, Sabal rosei, and Sabal pumos.[6] These clades associate closely with geographic distributions.[6] Most of the species within Clade 3 occur in the Greater Antilles and southern Mexico, where species that occur in the Greater Antilles are more closely related to each other than those that occur in southern Mexico.[6] Although Clade 4 also occurs in Mexico, these species occur on the west coast where they are geographically separated from the Mexican species within the southern part of the country.[6] The remaining two clades, Clade 1 and Clade 2 predominantly occur in the southeastern United States although S. palmetto and S. minor are also known from Cuba and the Bahamas (S. palmetto) and northern Mexico (S. minor).[6] Sabal bermudana is only known from Bermuda.[6]

In 2016 Heyduk, Trapnell, Barrett, and Leebens-Mack conducted a new study on Sabal that analyzed molecular (e.g. nuclear, plastid) data from 15 species of the group.[7] This study incorporated plastid and nuclear sequence data that together were used to estimate the relatedness between the species of Sabal.[7] The results of the study show species relationships to be different from the distribution of Zona's cladogram.[6][7] Within the framework of this study, a major difference between the results of Zona and this study is the placement of "Clade 4" (Sabal uresana, Sabal rosei, and Sabal pumos) which split and integrate these species throughout the phylogeny of Sabal.[6][7] The largest of the clades identified by Zona, "Clade 3" is disrupted significantly as it is split into multiple clades.[6][7] Although Sabal causiarum and S. domingensis retain their relationship as sister species, they are included in a clade that also includes S. maritima and S. rosei.[6][7] Despite these disruptions in placement between these two studies, the overall integrity of "Clade 1" and "Clade 2" is in congruence with the clades established from the molecular data.[7][6]


Image Scientific name Common name Distribution
Sabal antillensis M.P.Griff. Antillean palmetto Curaçao[4][8]
Sabal bermudana L.H.Bailey Bermuda palmetto Bermuda
Sabal brazoriensis D.H.Goldman, Lockett & Read Brazoria palmetto United States (Texas)
Sabal causiarum (O.F. Cook) Becc. Puerto Rico palmetto United States (Puerto Rico), British Virgin Islands, Hispaniola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic)
Sabal domingensis Becc. Hispaniola palmetto Cuba, Hispaniola (Dominican Republic, Haiti)
Sabal etonia Swingle ex Nash Scrub palmetto United States (Florida)
Sabal gretheriae H.J.Quero.R. Yucatán palmetto Mexico (Quintana Roo)
Sabal lougheediana M.P.Griff. Bonaire palmetto Bonaire[8]
Sabal maritima (Kunth) Burret Jamaica palmetto Jamaica, Cuba
Sabal mauritiiformis (H.Karst.) Griseb. & H.Wendl. Savannah palm or palma de vaca Southern Mexico to northern Colombia, Venezuela, Trinidad and Tobago (Trinida))
Sabal mexicana Mart. Mexican palmetto United States (southern Texas) south through Mexico to Nicaragua
Sabal miamiensis Miami palmetto United States (Southern Florida)
Sabal minor (Jacq.) Pers. Dwarf palmetto Northeastern Mexico, Southeastern United States (Florida north to North Carolina, west to Texas)
Sabal palmetto (Walter) Lodd. ex Schult. & Schult.f. Cabbage palmetto Cuba, Bahamas, Turks and Caicos Islands, United States (Florida north to North Carolina)
Sabal pumos (Kunth) Burret Royal palmetto Mexico (Guerrero, Michoacán, Puebla)
Sabal rosei (O.F.Cook) Becc. Rosei palmetto Northwestern Mexico
Sabal uresana Trel. Sonoran palmetto Mexico (Chihuahua, Sonora)
Sabal yapa C.Wright ex Becc. Mexico (Yucatán Peninsula), Belize, Cuba, Guatemala[9][10]
Fossil of S. major

Prehistoric taxa[edit]

Extinct species within this genus include:[11]

Plants of the genus lived from the late Cretaceous to the Quaternary period (from 66 million to 12 thousand years ago). Fossils have been found in the United States, as well as in Europe (Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Greece, Slovakia, the United Kingdom, France) and Japan.[11] Leaf fossils of Sabal lamanonis have been recovered from rhyodacite tuff of Lower Miocene age in southern Slovakia near the town of Lučenec.[13] 27 million year old Sabal lamanonis and Sabal raphipholia leaf fossils in volcanic rocks have been described from the Evros region in Western Thrace, Greece.[14]

Formerly placed in Sabal[edit]


Sabal species are used as food sources by several species of birds (including Mimus polyglottos, Turdus migratorius, Dendroica coronata, Corvus ossifragus, and Drycopus pileatus) as well as insects, such as Caryobruchus[15] and various species of Hymenoptera. American black bears (Ursus americanus) and raccoons (Procyon lotor) are also known to feed on fruit of various species of Sabal. Sabal palmetto is recorded to have its own lichen, Arthonia rubrocincta,[16] that only occurs on its leaf bases. In Europe, the introduced Lepidopteran species Paysandisia archon has become a prominent pest whose larvae are known to feed on some of the cultivated species of Sabal.


Arborescent species are often transplanted from natural stands into urban landscapes and are rarely grown in nurseries due to slow growth. Several species are cultivated as ornamental plants and because several species are relatively cold-hardy, can be grown farther north than most other palms. The central bud of Sabal palmetto is edible and, when cooked, is known as 'swamp cabbage'. Mature fronds are used as thatch, to make straw hats, and for weaving mats.


  1. ^ Michel Adanson (1763). Familles des plantes. 2 (in French). chez Vincent. pp. 495, 599.
  2. ^ "Sabal Adans". Tropicos. Missouri Botanical Garden. Retrieved 16 October 2009.
  3. ^ "Sabal Adans". Germplasm Resources Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. 15 October 2004. Archived from the original on 26 August 2009. Retrieved 12 April 2010.
  4. ^ a b Griffith, M. Patrick; De Freitas, John; Barros, Michelle; Noblick, Larry R. (2017). "Sabal antillensis (Arecaceae): a new palmetto species from the Leeward Antilles". Phytotaxa. 303: 56–64. doi:10.11646/phytotaxa.303.1.4.
  5. ^ a b Ramp, Paul F.; Thien, Leonard B. (1995). "A Taxonomic History and Reexamination of Sabal minor in the Mississippi Valley". Principes. 39 (2): 77–83.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Zona, Scott (1990). "A Monograph of Sabal (Arecaceae: Coryphoideae)". Aliso. 12 (4): 583–666. doi:10.5642/aliso.19901204.02.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g Heyduk, Karolina; Trapnell, Dorset W.; Barrett, Craig F.; Leebens-Mack, Jim (13 May 2015). "Phylogenomic analyses of species relationships in the genus Sabal (Arecaceae) using targeted sequence capture". Biological Journal of the Linnean Society. 117 (1): 106–120. doi:10.1111/bij.12551. ISSN 0024-4066.
  8. ^ a b Griffith, M. Patrick; Coolen, Quirijn; Barros, Michelle; Noblick, Larry R. (2019). "Sabal lougheediana (Arecaceae), a critically endangered, endemic palm species from Bonaire". Phytotaxa. 420: 095–102. doi:10.11646/phytotaxa.420.2.1. S2CID 208559842.
  9. ^ "Subordinate taxa of Sabal Adans". Tropicos. Missouri Botanical Garden. Retrieved 16 October 2009.
  10. ^ a b "GRIN Species Records of Sabal". Germplasm Resources Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 7 July 2010.
  11. ^ a b Paleobiology Database
  12. ^ a b Manchester, Steven R. (1994). "Fruits and seeds of the Middle Eocene Nut Beds Flora, Clarno Formation, Oregon". Palaeontographica Americana. 58: 1–205.
  13. ^ Vojtko, Rastislav (21 October 2016). "Miocénna flóra z lokalít Kalonda a Mučín" [Miocene flora from the localities Kalonda and Mučín]. Acta Geologica Slovaca (in Slovak). 1 (1): 65–70. ISSN 1338-0044. Retrieved 8 July 2019.
  14. ^ Velitzelos, Dimitrios; Bouchal, Johannes M.; Denk, Thomas (2014). "Review of the Cenozoic floras and vegetation of Greece". Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology. 204: 56–117. doi:10.1016/j.revpalbo.2014.02.006.
  15. ^ i Monteys, Víctor Sarto; Aguilar, Lluís; Saiz‐Ardanaz, Marienza; Ventura, Daniel; Martí, Mercè (June 2005). "Comparative morphology of the egg of the castniid palm borer, Paysandisia archon (Burmeister, 1880) (Lepidoptera: Castniidae)". Systematics and Biodiversity. 3 (2): 179–201. doi:10.1017/S1477200005001635. ISSN 1477-2000. S2CID 85748924.
  16. ^ Grube, Martin; Lucking, Robert; Umana-Tenorio, Loengrin (September 2004). "A New Isidiate Species of Arthonia (Ascomycota: Arthoniaceae) from Costa Rica". Mycologia. 96 (5): 1159–1162. doi:10.2307/3762099. ISSN 0027-5514. JSTOR 3762099. PMID 21148936.

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