Plant Spotlight: Cabbage Palm

The cabbage palm (Sabal palmetto) is Florida’s state tree, and is also one of the most easily recognizable trees.  It can be found nearly everywhere in Florida and is commonly used in landscaping.  Cabbage palms are easily identified by the shape and size of their leaves.  The leaf of a cabbage palm is very broad and there is a clear line down the middle, which sometimes makes the leaves look as if they are being folded in half.  Small cabbage palms can easily distinguished from saw palmettos by feeling their stems.  Saw palmettos have a jagged saw-like edge to their stems, as opposed to the cabbage palm which has a smooth edge. 

Young Sabal Palmetto.

One thing that most people do not realize about cabbage palms, is that they are edible.  These trees are where the hearts of palm commonly found in supermarkets come from.  It takes a lot of work to get to a heart of palm, as the heart of the palm is located in the very center of the palm tree (hence the name).  The cabbage palm gets its name from its edible heart, as early florida settlers used to refer to hearts of palm as “swamp cabbage.”

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