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FNA | Family List | FNA Vol. 22 | Arecaceae

8. Sabal Adanson ex Guersent, Bulletin des Sciences, par la Societe Philomatique. 87: 205-206. 1804.

Palmetto [derivation of name unknown]

Inodes O. F. Cook

Plants dwarf, moderate, or tall, usually robust. Stems solitary, aerial or subterranean, covered with leaf bases or clean, obscurely [strongly] ringed, becoming striate or smooth with age. Leaves few to many; sheath fibers soft; petiole split at base, completely unarmed; adaxial hastula well -developed, obtuse to acuminate-triangular; costa present; blade weakly to strongly costapalmate; plication induplicate; segments lanceolate, basally connate to connate for 2 1/2 length [or in groups of 2 or 3 segments connate for nearly entire length], often bearing thread-like fibers between segments; apices acute or 2-cleft, stiff or lax. Inflorescences axillary within crown of leaves, paniculate, erect or arching beyond leaves [shorter than leaves], with 2 or 3[--4] orders of branching; peduncular bracts 2--5, tightly clasping, inconspicuous; rachillae glabrous. Flowers bisexual, borne singly along rachillae, sessile, creamy white, fragrant; perianth 2-seriate; calyx cupulate; 3-lobed; petals 3, imbricate, elliptic, obovate or spatulate, alternate with outer whorl of stamens [basally connate], basally adnate to filaments; stamens 6 in 2 whorls; filaments narrowly triangular, basally connate; anthers dorsifixed, versatile; pistils 1, 1-carpellate, glabrous; nectaries 3, septal; ovules 3, but usually only one develops into seed; stigma minutely 3-lobed, papillose. Fruits drupes, berrylike, spheroid [oblate or pyriform ] or lobed when more than 1 seed develops; exocarp black; mesocarp blackish, dry to fleshy; endocarp brown, membranaceous. Seeds 1--3, oblate, glossy; endosperm bony, homogeneous; embryo nearly apical, lateral or nearly lateral; eophyll undivided, linear-lanceolate. nx = 18.

Species 16 (5 in the flora): North America, Mexico, West Indies, Central America, South America.

Sabal flowers are bisexual and are pollinated mostly by native bees, especially of the families Halictidae and Megachilidae (S. Zona 1987, 1990), European honeybee, and wasps (Vespidae; P. F. Ramp 1989). Fruits are eagerly sought by both mammals (bears, deer, raccoons) and birds (S. Zona and A. Henderson 1989). Sabal minor, perhaps more than other species, is also dispersed by water (P. F. Ramp 1989; S. Zona 1990).


Lockett, L. 1991. Native Texas palms north of the lower Rio Grande Valley: Recent discoveries. Principes 35: 64--71. Simpson, B. J. 1988. A Field Guide to Texas Trees. Austin. Zona, S. 1990. A monograph of Sabal (Arecaceae: Coryphoideae). Aliso 12: 583--666.

1 Inflorescences with 2 (rarely 3 in basal branches) orders of branching (not counting main axis).   (2)
+ Inflorescence with 3 orders of branching.   (3)
2 (1) Leaf strongly costapalmate and curved, bearing fibers between segments; inflorescence bushy and compact, ± long as leaves   1 Sabal etonia
+ Leaf weakly costapalmate and little if at all curved, not bearing fibers between segments; inflorescence sparsely branched, much longer than leaves   4 Sabal minor
3 (1) Stems subterranean; leaves 6 or fewer   3 Sabal miamiensis
+ Stems usually aerial; leaves more than 10.   (4)
4 (3) Fruit 8.1--13.9 mm diam.   5 Sabal palmetto
+ Fruit 14.8--19.3 mm diam   2 Sabal mexicana

Lower Taxa


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