Saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) is a small, fan palm with a horizontal trunk that grows at or just below the surface. The plant grows very slowly, can live up to 700 years, and can grow to a height of 15 feet.
Saw palmetto grows in clumps and dense thickets in sandy areas.
Leaves are light green, 3.3 to 6.6 feet wide, and made up of about 20 leaflets. As shown in the photographs, leaflets meet at the top of the leaf stem. This is a different arrangement from that of a sabal palm where leaflets meet at the leaf stem's arching mid-rib.
The leaf stem of Serenoa repens has many sharp "teeth" that resemble a saw blade. This characteristic gives it its common name: "saw palmetto."
Saw palmetto flowers, shown in the photographs below, are frequently visited by pollinators. Bees produce delicious honey from the nectar.
After flowering, berries are produced. Berries are an important food for wildlife, as are saw palmetto leaves. During a fire, leaves and stems of saw palmetto burn, but underground trunks do not. New tender growth emerges from the trunks for animals to eat.
Over time, people have used saw palmetto for a variety of things. Native Americans use the berries for medicine and the leaves for making roofs, rugs, and hats. The berries are currently used in research studies of prostrate cancer, breast enhancement, and baldness.
© Photographs and text by Susan Leach Snyder (Conservancy of Southwest Florida Volunteer).
Please report errors to Susan Snyder @ email@example.com