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Palmetto Trees in the Beaufort and Hilton Head Area

The Cabbage Palmetto is the most recognizable tree by visitors in the Beaufort and Hilton Head area. It is very common around marshlands, flats and the many small local islands and hummock areas. It is a very desirable lawn tree.

About Palmetto Trees

The cabbage palmetto (Sabal palmetto) is the most northerly and abundant of the native tree palms. This medium-sized, unbranched evergreen palm, produces fragigrant flowers in June, which contain male and female reproductive parts. These flowers attract a wide variety of insects and ants which pollinate the flowers. The flowers begin to develop a one-seed fruit that matures around October and November. The fruit is consumed by area birds and wildlife, and the excreted seeds are spread throughout their habitats. Fruit falling to the ground is often cached by rodents, resulting in dense patches of seedlings. Seeds are unaffected by saltwater and are carried by tides and currents to other islands and beaches.

Palmetto Tree Design

If you ever try to cut up a palmetto tree, you will soon learn it is very difficult to do. Unlike most trees that have growth rings, the palmetto is made up of very dense vertical fibers. In fact, palmetto trees were used to build area fortifications because they did not produce lethal splinters when struck by cannonballs and could stop most musket balls. The Palmetto root system is ideal for sandy areas. Roots are contained in a ball form, sometimes being 8 feet in diameter. This allows the top heavy tree to simply "lay down" rather than snap, during hurricanes and gales. The fronds are used by many during Easter services.
The cabbage palmetto can grow more that 35 feet high. The cabbage palmetto is the SC State tree and is pictured on the state flag and seal. Palmetto trees, due to their high water content, are resistant to fire, as long as the roots remain buried in the sand.