The European Palm Society Palm Database


Sabal miamiensis

Genus: Sabal
Species: miamiensis
Common Name: Miami palmetto palm
Country Of Origin: United States
Preferred Aspect: Sun
Seed tips: Germinate seeds in deep pots (10+ cm tall) with bottom heat. Like all Sabals it is a tillering palm, i.e., it has a heel and saxophone root growth.
I can confirm that miamiensis has bigger seeds - the largest of any FL Sabal.
General comments: Contribution from Meg Price from Cape Coral, Florida.

Sabal miamiensis once grew on limestone outcrops in a small area of Broward and Dade counties in SFL. It wasn't described until the 1990s. But before anyone could take action to preserve it, the whole population of this palm was destroyed by development. Only a few examples of this lost palm exist in botanical and private gardens. In 2008 I was given one seedling germinated from seeds collected by a palm expert from one of those existing palms. After a difficult start my little palm thrived, esp. after I planted it in my front Caribbean garden. It began seeding in 2014.

There is lively debate now on whether this Sabal should retain its status as one of four native FL palms. Some experts say yes, others no. Kew removed its species status a few years ago. I respectfully disagree with Kew and other naysayers - I am in the yea camp. I've heard claims S.m. is really Sabal palmetto or a hybrid between palmetto and ?????. But my palm started flowering while trunkless, which S. palmetto never does. In addition, miamiensis seeds are twice as large as palmetto's and are the largest of the FL Sabals, including Sabal minor (which is considered the most "primitive" Sabal and is native to North FL and other southeastern states). Other people claim miamiensis should be lumped with Sabal etonia (another trunkless species). But S.e. grows in north central FL, 100s of miles from the limestone outcrops that once welcomed S.m. I had two Sabal etonias germinate in 2008: one languished until it died, the other survives as a struggling dwarf palm. I believe this species can't take my alkaline, calcareous sandy soil nor the coral rock in far southeast FL. My little S.e. finally fruited this year and put out about two dozen seeds. Its green leaves are much flatter than my Sabal miamiensis, whose bluish fronds curve so far backward that they look like praying hands to some observers. Anyone who has seen my palm says it is not palmetto, etonia or even minor.

Only DNA testing of FL Sabals may decide the controversy: is Sabal miamiensis a separate species, a hybrid (although Sabals rarely hybridize) or synonymous with palmetto, etonia or even minor? Still, that is beside the point. Sabal minor exists in many forms in the SE USA. Lovers of Sabals and other coldhardy palms want to have examples of each: McCurtain, Louisiana, Emerald Island Giant, Arkansas, Blountstown Dwarf and Wakulla Dwarf for just a few. If even one form went extinct, collectors would mourn. Whatever Sabal miamiensis turns out to be, the truth is that it once existed on some limestone outcrops in SFL but is now extinct in the wild. Back in 2008 I was giddy when I was given one tiny seedling from a knowledgeable palm friend and the opportunity to preserve this lovely palm. 

Sabal miamiensis requires the same conditions as other Sabals: sun, heat, humidity and water. I don't think anyone knows how coldhardy it is, as it only grew in southern FL. But it is trunkless - like minor and most etonia. I would conservatively rate it  hardy as palmetto and etonia, i.e., down to -10C but not as hardy as minor.

My little etonia had an erect inflorescence as did my S. minor. My S. miamiensis has inflorescences that droop low and do not stand up.

Young plant in 2011, Cape Coral, Flda Young plant in 2011, Cape Coral, Flda
Plant in 2015, Capr Coral, Flda Plant in 2015, Capr Coral, Flda
Notice how leaf is costapalmate, it almost curves into a circle. Some people liken fronds to "praying hands" Notice how leaf is costapalmate, it almost curves into a circle. Some people liken fronds to "praying hands"
Flowering stalk Flowering stalk

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