The European Palm Society Palm Database


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Sabal palmetto

Genus: Sabal
Species: palmetto
Variety: Lisa
Common Name: Palmetto palm
Country Of Origin: United States
Seed tips:

Estimates vary as to what percentage of seeds will turn out to be Lisas. I've been told 20%, but seeds I collected in 2008 from when both rescued palms still lived in the wild were over 60% true. That was seven years ago so I have no idea what % these seeds will achieve. Sabal seeds are easy germinators, esp. for people new to palms. Because they are remote germinators with long radicles, they require pots at least 10 cm tall or taller. They don't need light to germinate but do need a source of bottom heat and temps above 25C and more. Anyone who germinates these seeds needs to be very patient.  Seedlings may take up to 5 years (in FL) to show their traits. The better they are treated (water, fertilizer, sun, heat and deep pots) they quicker they grow.

General comments: Information courtesy of Meg Price, Cape Coral, Flda.

Sabal palmetto Lisa is a mutant variant of FL's state tree, Sabal palmetto. The term "palmetto" can be confusing. In a general sense, it is the nickname of a number of Caribbean and SE US fan palms of genera Sabal, Coccothrinax, Thrinax and Serenoa. As a scientific term it is applied to one species of Sabal: Sabal palmetto.

 Sabal palmetto Lisa is one of the rarest palms in the world, discovered in SW FL in 2005 and named after the discover's wife. Only a few exist in the wild and anyone who sees one is awestruck. Rather than the typical Sabal leaf that is costapalmate and has deeply cut leaflets, Sabal Lisa's fronds are flat, stiff, with leaflets fused together in a fashion that resembles "pleating". Fronds feel almost like plastic. No other palm in the world looks quite like it. This fall I harvested seeds from the smaller of two Lisas that once grew at an interstate exit. A few years ago the State decided to widen the interstate and scheduled both palms for destruction. Palm lovers raised a ruckus and the City of Ft. Myers offered them a place in one of its palm parks. There they happily reside - safe for good. Both are probably decades old and their loss would have been a disaster given how few specimens exist. It has all the requirements of all Sabals: lots of sun, heat, humidity and summer rain. It is coldhardy down to about -10C, zone 8 or microclimates of zone 7b. Another thing to understand is that while most Sabals are exceedingly coldhardy, that coldhardiness comes with a trade-off. To maintain their coldhardiness, they require summer sun, high heat, humidity and rain. To keep them healthy and growing be ready to provide extra light and heat if need be.

She was almost too tall for me to access seeds and will probably be so in the next year or two. Then I will no longer be able to harvest them. Also, no telling whether City maintenance staff might decide to cut down future infructescenses. Photos 2-4 show my second largest Sabal Lisa on my garden lot and show close-ups of its mindboggling fronds. Photo 5 shows my smallest Lisa, which is 4-5 years old. Look closely and see how its strap leaves are so deeply convex they look ready to roll up into tubes. That is a giveaway look for S. Lisa seedlings as normal strap leaves look almost flat.

Sabal Lisa leaves are very thick and rigid compared to normal S.p. leaves and I wonder if S. Lisa might have a bit more cold tolerance (at least while its growing point stays underground).
Lisa, Fort Myers, Flda Lisa, Fort Myers, Flda
Lisa, Cape Coral, Flda Lisa, Cape Coral, Flda
Leaf detail Leaf detail
Leaf, obverse side Leaf, obverse side
Seedling 4 to 5 years old, Capr Coral, Flda Seedling 4 to 5 years old, Capr Coral, Flda
at Leu Gdns, Orlando  P Timmermans at Leu Gdns, Orlando P Timmermans
Leaf bases, Leu Gdns Orlando,  P Timmermans Leaf bases, Leu Gdns Orlando, P Timmermans

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