Sabal mexicana

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Mexican palmetto
Sabal mexicana 1.jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Monocots
(unranked): Commelinids
Order: Arecales
Family: Arecaceae
Genus: Sabal
Species: S. mexicana
Binomial name
Sabal mexicana
Sabal mexicana range map.png
Natural range
  • Erythea loretensis M.E.Jones
  • Inodes exul O.F.Cook
  • Inodes mexicana (Mart.) Standl.
  • Inodes texana O.F.Cook
  • Sabal exul (O.F.Cook) L.H.Bailey
  • Sabal guatemalensis Becc.
  • Sabal mexicana Sauvalle
  • Sabal texana (O.F.Cook) Becc.

Sabal mexicana is a species of palm tree that is native to North America. Common names include Rio Grande palmetto,[3] Mexican palmetto, Texas palmetto, Texas sabal palm, palmmetto cabbage and palma de mícharos.[2] The specific epithet, "mexicana", is Latin for "of Mexico."[4]


Mexican palmetto reaches a height of 12–18 m (39–59 ft), with a spread of 3–4 m (9.8–13.1 ft). The trunk reaches 12–15 m (39–49 ft) in length and 30 cm (12 in) in diameter. The fan-shaped fronds are 1.5–1.8 m (4.9–5.9 ft) wide and attach to 90–120 cm (35–47 in) spineless petioles. Spikes 1.2–1.8 m (3.9–5.9 ft) in length yield small bisexual flowers.[5] The drupes[6] are black when ripe and 12 mm (0.47 in) in diameter.[5]


The current range of S. mexicana extends from South Texas on the Gulf Coast and Nayarit on the Pacific Coast, south along both seashores to Nicaragua.[2] It is one of the most widespread and common palm trees in Mexico, where it is found in the drier lowlands.[7] Some believe that the species may have ranged much further north along the Texas Gulf Coast and as far inland as San Antonio at one time. This is supported by observations recorded in the 17th to 19th centuries, the presence of a small, disjunct population 200 mi (320 km) north of the Lower Rio Grande Valley, and the ease with which cultivated trees have become naturalized in parts of Central Texas.[8] This palm also known as Brazoria Palm has been genetically tested. They found that it is a product of long ago hybridization of Sabal palmetto and Sabal minor. It grows to an intermediate height, 10 metres or about 33 feet.

Because it is widely used as an ornamental in the southern half of Texas, and because it easily naturalizes itself there, it is difficult to distinguish naturally occurring specimens of S. mexicana from naturalized ones. However, three specific populations are noteworthy as having been generally accepted to be purely natural. The most prominent is found in the 557-acre Sabal Palm Sanctuary located outside of Brownsville, Texas, along the banks of the Rio Grande. The second is on a much smaller tract located along the banks of Garcitas Creek, near Vanderbilt, Texas. The final and most controversial is in an area of roughly 45 acres located in Brazoria County, Texas, just below Houston. This last population is suspected to have been hybridized with the more common Sabal minor. Some analyses dispute the inclusion of S. mexicana in the parentage of this population. Now it is believed by genetic analysis to be an ancient hybrid of S. minor and S. palmetto.[9]


Mexican palmetto is grown as an ornamental for its robust, stately form, drought tolerance, and hardiness to USDA Zone 8.[10] The wood is resistant to decomposition[10] and shipworms, making it desirable for use in wharf pilings[8] and fence posts.[10] The leaves are used for thatching and making straw hats. The drupes and palm hearts are eaten.[7]


  1. ^ The Plant List
  2. ^ a b c "Sabal mexicana Mart.". Germplasm Resources Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. 2010-03-17. Retrieved 2010-03-23. 
  3. ^ "Sabal mexicana". Natural Resources Conservation Service PLANTS Database. USDA. Retrieved 26 October 2015. 
  4. ^ Riffle, Robert Lee; Paul Craft (2003). An Encyclopedia of Cultivated Palms. Timber Press. pp. 446–447. ISBN 978-0-88192-558-6. 
  5. ^ a b Riffle, Robert Lee (2008). Timber Press Pocket Guide to Palms. Timber Press. p. 204. ISBN 978-0-88192-776-4. 
  6. ^ Miller, George Oxford (2006). Landscaping with Native Plants of Texas. Voyageur Press. p. 94. ISBN 978-0-7603-2539-1. 
  7. ^ a b Henderson, Andrew; Gloria Galeano; Rodrigo Bernal (1997). Field Guide to the Palms of the Americas. Princeton University Press. p. 66. ISBN 978-0-691-01600-9. 
  8. ^ a b Lockett, Landon (2006). "Sabal Mexicana Palm Trees, Native to San Antonio. And Beyond?" (PDF). Convergence and Diversity: Native Plants of South Central Texas Symposium Proceedings. Native Plant Society of Texas: 79–84. 
  9. ^ Goldman, Douglas; Klooster, Griffith; Fay, Chase (2011-08-25). "A preliminary evaluation of the ancestry of a putative Sabal hybrid (Arecaceae: Coryphoideae), and the description of a new nothospecies, Sabal × brazoriensis" (PDF). Phytotaxa. 1179. 27 (3163). 
  10. ^ a b c "#813 Sabal mexicana". Floridata. Retrieved 2010-01-08. 

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