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A Floridata Plant Profile #242 Sabal minor
Common Names: blue palm, blue palmetto, dwarf palm, dwarf palmetto
Family: Arecacea/Palmae (palm Family)
Wallpaper Gallery (3 images)

Shrub  Palm  Tolerant of Shade and Low Light Conditions Has evergreen foliage Has Unusual or Interesting Foliage

This oldtimer blue palm makes his home at Miami's Fairchild Tropical Garden.
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 palmettoSerenoa 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 palm grows naturally in moist forests, ravines and bottomlands from North Carolina to east Texas.

blue palmetto flowers
This is a section of a blue-stem palm infloresence showing the arrangement of the small individual flowers along the branches of the stalk.
Light: Prefers partial sun and can tolerate light shade
Moisture: Prefers moist soils but can tolerate drought
Hardiness: Hardy in 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

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. Click to download a large version (800x600) of this image.
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 JS 06/09/01, 09/21/03

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