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saw palmetto
Serenoa repens USDA1.jpg

Apparently Secure (NatureServe)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Monocots
(unranked): Commelinids
Order: Arecales
Family: Arecaceae
Subfamily: Coryphoideae
Tribe: Trachycarpeae
Subtribe: Livistoninae
Genus: Serenoa
Species: S. repens
Binomial name
Serenoa repens
(Bartram) J.K.Small[1]
Serenoa repens range map.jpg
Natural range
  • Corypha repens W.Bartram
  • Corypha obliqua W.Bartram
  • Chamaerops serrulata Michx.
  • Sabal serrulata (Michx.) Schult.f
  • Sabal serrulatum (Michx.) Schult.f, spelling error
  • Diglossophyllum serrulatum (Michx.) Schaedtler
  • Brahea serrulata (Michx.) H.Wendl.
  • Serenoa serrulata (Michx.) Hook.f. ex B.D.Jacks.
  • Serenoa repens f. glauca Moldenke

Serenoa repens, commonly known as saw palmetto, is the sole species currently classified in the genus Serenoa. It has been known by a number of synonyms, including Sabal serrulatum, under which name it still often appears in alternative medicine. It is a small palm, growing to a maximum height of around 7–10 ft (2–3 m).[3] Its trunk is sprawling, and it grows in clumps or dense thickets in sandy coastal lands or as undergrowth in pine woods or hardwood hammocks. Erect stems or trunks are rarely produced but are found in some populations. It is endemic to the southeastern United States, most commonly along the Atlantic and Gulf Coastal plains, but also as far inland as southern Arkansas. It is a hardy plant; extremely slow growing, and long lived, with some plants, especially in Florida where it is known as simply the palmetto, possibly being as old as 500–700 years.[4]

Saw palmetto is a fan palm, with the leaves that have a bare petiole terminating in a rounded fan of about 20 leaflets. The petiole is armed with fine, sharp teeth or spines that give the species its common name. The teeth or spines are easily capable of breaking the skin, and protection should be worn when working around a Saw Palmetto. The leaves are light green inland, and silvery-white in coastal regions. The leaves are 1–2 m in length, the leaflets 50–100 cm long. They are similar to the leaves of the palmettos of genus Sabal. The flowers are yellowish-white, about 5 mm across, produced in dense compound panicles up to 60 cm long. The fruit is a large reddish-black drupe and is an important food source for wildlife and historically for humans. The plant is used as a food plant by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species such as Batrachedra decoctor, which feeds exclusively on the plant. This plant is also edible to human beings, but the greener it is the more bitter tasting it would be.

The generic name honors American botanist Sereno Watson.

Medical Use[edit]

Main article: Saw palmetto extract
Saw palmettos beneath the larger evergreen canopy in the Apalachicola National Forest in Florida

The fruits of the saw palmetto are highly enriched with fatty acids and phytosterols, and extracts of the fruits have been the subject of intensive research for the symptomatic treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH).

Early meta-analyses of clinical trials S. repens extract in the treatment of BPH concluded that saw palmetto extract is safe and effective for mild-to-moderate BPH compared to placebo, finasteride, and tamsulosin.[5][6] Two larger trials found the extract to be no different from placebo.[7][8] An updated meta-analysis including these trials found that saw palmetto extract "was not more effective than placebo for treatment of hyperplasia."[9]

S. repens extract has been promoted as useful for people with prostate cancer.[citation needed] However, according to the American Cancer Society, "available scientific studies do not support claims that saw palmetto can prevent or treat prostate cancer in humans".[10]


Indigenous names reported by Austin[11] include: tala (Choctaw); cani (Timucua); ta ́:la (Koasati); taalachoba ("big palm", Alabama); ta:laɬ a ́ kko ("big palm," Creek); talco ́:bˆı ("big palm," Mikasuki); talimushi ("palmetto's uncle," Choctaw), and guana (Taino, possibly). Saw palmetto fibers have been found among materials from indigenous people as far north as Wisconsin and New York, strongly suggesting this material was widely traded prior to European contact.[12] The leaves are used for thatching by several indigenous groups; so commonly so that there is a location in Alachua County, Florida named Kanapaha ("palm house").[13] The fruits may have been used to treat an unclear form of fish poisoning by the Seminoles and Bahamians.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Serenoa repens (W. Bartram) Small". Germplasm Resources Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. 1997-05-22. Retrieved 2010-04-12. 
  2. ^ Kew World Checklist of Selected Plant Families
  3. ^ "Conservation Plant Characteristics for Serenoa repens". 
  4. ^ Tanner, George W.; J. Jeffrey Mullahey; David Maehr (July 1996). "Saw-palmetto: An Ecologically and Economically Important Native Palm" (PDF). Circular WEC-109. University of Florida Cooperative Extension Service. 
  5. ^ Wilt T, Ishani A, Mac Donald R (2002). Tacklind, James, ed. "Serenoa repens for benign prostatic hyperplasia". Cochrane Database Syst Rev (3): CD001423. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD001423. PMID 12137626. 
  6. ^ Boyle, P; Robertson C; Lowe F; Roehrborn C (Apr 2004). "Updated meta-analysis of clinical trials of Serenoa repens extract in the treatment of symptomatic benign prostatic hyperplasia". BJU Int 93 (6): 751–756. doi:10.1111/j.1464-410X.2003.04735.x. PMID 15049985. 
  7. ^ Bent S, Kane C, Shinohara K, et al. (February 2006). "Saw palmetto for benign prostatic hyperplasia". N. Engl. J. Med. 354 (6): 557–566. doi:10.1056/NEJMoa053085. PMID 16467543. 
  8. ^ Dedhia RC, McVary KT (June 2008). "Phytotherapy for lower urinary tract symptoms secondary to benign prostatic hyperplasia". J. Urol. 179 (6): 2119–2125. doi:10.1016/j.juro.2008.01.094. PMID 18423748. 
  9. ^ Tacklind, J; MacDonald R; Rutks I; Wilt TJ (April 2009). Tacklind, James, ed. "Serenoa repens for benign prostatic hyperplasia". Cochrane Database Syst Rev (2): CD001423. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD001423.pub2. PMC 3090655. PMID 19370565. 
  10. ^ "Saw Palmetto". American Cancer Society. 28 November 2008. Retrieved 13 September 2013. 
  11. ^ Austin, DF (2004). Florida Ethnobotany. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press. ISBN 978-0-8493-2332-4. 
  12. ^ Whitford AC (1941). "Textile fibers used in eastern aboriginal North America". Anthropological Papers of the American Museum of Natural History 38: 5–22. 
  13. ^ Simpson, JC (1956). A Provisional Gazetteer of Florida Place-Names of Indian Derivation. Tallahassee: Florida Geological Survey. 
  14. ^ Sturtevant, WC (1955). The Mikasuki Seminole: Medical Beliefs and Practices. Ann Arbor, MI: University Microfilms. 

Further Reading[edit]

Bernichtein, Sophie; Pigat, Natascha; Camparo, Philippe; Latil, Alain; Viltard, Melanie; Friedlander, Gerard; Goffin, Vincent (14 February 2015). "Anti-Inflammatory Properties of Lipidosterolic Extract of Serenoa Repens (Permixon (R)) in a Mouse Model of Prostate Hyperplasia". The Prostate (2015) 75 (7): 706–722. doi:10.1002/pros.22953. 

External links[edit]