Saw palmetto grows on a wide variety of sites, from dry and open to seasonally wet and semi-shady. Across this wide range of habitats, it most frequently occurs on sand ridges, flatwood forests, coastal dunes, and islands near marshes. Saw palmetto is the dominant ground cover in some southeastern pine forests, sometimes covering hundreds of acres. Saw palmetto often grows in clumps 20′ or more in diameter. Saw palmetto is found in most of the southeast coastal plain, between Louisiana and Florida in the south, to South Carolina in the north.
Black bears, white-tailed deer, and feral hogs eat the fruits of saw palmetto. Native Americans also used the fruits for food. The fruits are collected today for herbal medicines that may help prevent certain forms of cancer. The flowers are an important source of honey and clumps of palmetto are often favorite hiding places of rattlesnakes, wasps, and the Florida panther. This plant got is named for the saw-toothed leaf stems that are very sharp. Saw palmetto may be confused with dwarf palmetto (Sabal minor) because of their similar sizes and leaf shapes. Dwarf palmetto has blue-green leaves, has no spines on the leaf stems, and the circular fruits are about ½” in diameter. Contact us today at Orlando Outdoors!