Serenoa repens - (Bartram) Small
Arecaceae (Palm) Family
Saw palmetto is a prostrate palm endemic to the southeastern coastal plain of the United States. It is common in a variety of habitats from seasonally flooded pine forests to coastal dunes and inland scrub. Its trunk is sprawling, and it grows in clumps or dense thickets or as undergrowth in pine woods or hardwood hammocks. Erect stems or trunks are rarely produced, but are found in some populations. It is a hardy plant; extremely slow-growing, and long-lived, with some plants, especially in Florida possibly being as old as 500700 years. Saw palmetto, is the sole species currently classified in the genus Serenoa. It is a small palm, growing to a maximum height around 710 ft. and is found in the lowlands and savanna scrubs of the subtropical Southeastern United States, most commonly along the south Atlantic and Gulf Coastal plains.
The flowers are borne on densely-branched, interfoliar inflorescences. It can produce over 5 flowering stems at one time, but commonly produce 1 to 3. Each inflorescence contains several thousand individual flowers. The flowers are 56 mm long, with three white, partially connate (united so as to form a single part) petals that are reflexed at anthesis (opening of the flower bud). Each flower is bisexual in nature and has 6 stamens and 1 pistil, with a 3-ovulate, superior ovary. Usually only 1 ovule matures into a seed.
The leaves are light green inland, and silvery-white in coastal regions. Each leaf is 3 to 6 feet in length, with leaflets up to 18 inches long. They are similar to the leaves of the palmettos of genus Sabal. The plant is a fan palm, with leaves that have a bare stalk terminating in a rounded fan of about 20 leaflets. The stalk is armed with fine, sharp teeth or spines that give the species its common name. The teeth are easily capable of breaking the skin, and protection should be worn when working around the plant.
Saw palmetto fruit is a soft nutlet that is consumed by many species of wildlife, including black bear, white-tailed deer, raccoon, wild turkey, northern bob-white, gray fox and gopher tortoise. In addition, the fruit is in much demand for medicinal use to treat enlarged prostate.