Floridata Plant Encyclopedia

A Floridata Plant Profile 242 Sabal minor

Common Names: blue palm, blue palmetto, dwarf palm, dwarf palmetto Family: Arecacea (palm Family)
Image Gallery

blue palm
This oldtimer blue palm makes his home at Miami's Fairchild Tropical Garden.

Description

Blue-stem is a small fan palm with a trunk that remains below ground. Depending on age and growing conditions, the leaves can be anywhere from 1-5 ft (0.3-1.5 m) in length and width. The smooth petiole (leaf stem) is a little longer than the leaf. The inflorescence (cluster of flowers) is erect, extending well above the leaves. The fruits are black, about 1/2 in (1.3 cm) in diameter and their weight causes the flowering stalk to arch downward, sometimes to the ground. Also called dwarf or bush palmetto, the leaves of blue-stem differ from those of the similar-looking saw palmetto Serenoa repens in having a short midrib, an extension of the petiole and a smooth stem while the saw palmetto's is armed with small sharp spines that form the sawlike edges that give the plant its name.

blue palmetto flowers
This is a section of a blue-stem palm inflorescence showing the arrangement of the small individual flowers along the branches of the stalk.

Location

Blue palm, Sabal minor, grows naturally in moist forests, ravines and bottomlands from North Carolina to east Texas.

Culture

Light: Prefers partial sun and can tolerate light shade Moisture: Prefers moist soils but can tolerate drought Hardiness: USDA Zones 8 - 10. Some varieties are hardy to Zone 7. Blue-stem palm is sometimes killed above ground by freezing weather, but re-sprouts the following spring. Propagation: By seed

Usage

Use blue-stem palm as an underplanting or in front of a grove of tall palms. Blue-stem is one of the hardiest palms in the world, and for many areas it is one of few palms that can be grown outdoors. Use it in mixed borders or hedges. Blue-stem palm is especially well suited for massing around the base of a large live oak. Plant this palm in shady beds to provide a backdrop of spectacular form and color for low-light flowering plants like impatiens (Impatiens wallerana), justicia (Justicia spp.) and caladium (Caladium bicolor).

Sabal minor seeds
These blue-stem seeds, artfully presented against a fresh bluish-green leaf, will turn black at maturity.

Features

Beautiful evergreen foliage makes a dramatic statement under tree canopies and other shady places. The Louisiana palm is an especially cold hardy variety of Sabal minor that has been grown as far north as Zone 7. There's another trunkless member of the Sabal species that is native to Florida called the scrub palm (Sabal etonia). Unlike the blue palm which prefers shadier sites and moister soils, the scrub palm grows on dry sandy soils often on hot sunny sites.

Yet another shrubby palm native to the southeastern United States is the needle palm (Rhapidophyllum hystrix). Young specimens of these may resemble blue-stems but you can distinguish the two - dark needles emerging from the base of the plant show that it is a needle palm.

Steve Christman 03/07/98; updated 06/09/01, 09/21/03



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Sabal species profiled on Floridata:


Sabal causiarum

( Puerto Rican hat palm, hat palm )

Sabal domingensis

( Dominican palm, Hispaniola palm )

Sabal etonia

( scrub palm, scrub palmetto )

Sabal mexicana

( Texas palm, Texas sabal palm, Mexican palmetto, Rio Grande palmetto, hat palm, Texas palmetto )

Sabal minor

( blue palm, blue palmetto, dwarf palm, dwarf palmetto )

Sabal palmetto

( cabbage palm, palmetto )

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