Floridata Plant Encyclopedia

A Floridata Plant Profile 244 Serenoa repens

Common Names: saw palmetto Family: Arecacea (palm Family)
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saw palmetto
This ancient clump of saw palmetto growing in an Orlando, Florida neighborhood near downtown has formed above ground stems.


Saw palmetto is a small hardy fan palm whose stem usually remains below ground or runs just along the surface. In some cases, it develops an erect or arching trunk that may lift the whorl of leaves 2-8 ft (0.6-2.4 m) above ground. The palmate leaves are 2-3 ft (0.6-0.9 m) across and green or bluish green. The cluster of leaves gets about 4-6 ft (1.2-1.8 m) high with a similar spread. In the wild, saw palmetto often grows in clumps 20 ft (6 m) or more in diameter. The petioles (leaf stems) are about 2 ft (0.6 m) long and sharply saw-toothed. The fruits are round, black when ripe and about an inch in diameter. An especially attractive form with silvery-blue leaves occurs along the Atlantic coast in Florida and is the form most often grown in gardens and landscapes.

blue saw palmetto
This silvery-blue variety is found in populations along Florida's Atlantic coast.


Saw palmetto, Serenoa repens, occurs naturally on the coastal plain from South Carolina to southeastern Louisiana. It grows in a wide range of habitats from seaside sand dunes and dry scrub to moist forests, pine flatwoods and even wetlands. Saw palmetto can be the dominant ground cover in certain southeastern pine forests, sometimes covering hundreds of acres.


Once established, saw palmetto is virtually maintenance-free. Light: refers full sun, but can tolerate partial sun. Moisture: Tolerates drought but can also tolerate moist soils. Hardiness: USDA Zones 8 - 10. Propagation: By seed.


Saw palmetto is a beautiful little palm and deserves a place in the ornamental landscape with the silver form being especially attractive. Plant saw palmettos in front of clumps of larger palms, or even underneath large palms. They look good massed in clumps in mixed borders, or as framing hedges. Use as accents to trees or in foundation plantings. Do not plant this palm near walkways or where children play as the sharp sawtooth leaf stems can seriously cut exposed skin.

saw palmetto
A clump of native saw palmetto at Jack's Floridune.


The berries of saw palmetto are used as a treatment for benign prostatic hyperplasia or enlarged prostate gland. They are also used as a diuretic to tone the bladder, improve urinary flow, and decrease urinary frequency. They may help prevent prostate cancer.

Saw palmetto berries have always been a valuable food source for wildlife. As their effectiveness as a treatment for various human disorders is confirmed their value has steadily increased. Wild creatures must now compete with human collectors for the saw palmetto fruits. Florida landowners are reporting cases of "saw palmetto rustling" where gangs of pickers move in and strip and area of fruit within a few hours.

Steve Christman 12/09/97 - updated: 07/05/98, 09/04/99, 07/05/01, 10/11/03

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Serenoa species profiled on Floridata:

Serenoa repens

( saw palmetto )

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