Range/Geographical Distribution: Along the coast from North Carolina to Louisiana, also in the Bahamas and Cuba.
Habitat: Freshwater swamps, low coastal areas, hammocks, pine forests, and hardwood forests.
Description: A solitary palm with a single trunk and a canopy of 24-36 leaves that can reach over six feet in length and three feet in width.
Size: Can grow to 80 feet in height.
Reproduction: Flowers spring to fall. Produces green fruits called drupes that are about a half inch in diameter and turn black when mature. Seeds germinate in two to three months.
Predators/Ecological Function: The small fruits are eaten by birds, squirrels, bears, raccoons, and deer. The flowers provide nectar for butterflies and birds use the leaf fibers for building nests. Epiphytes grow on the trunk or the base of the leaves and frogs and bats use the leaves for shelter.
Conservation Status: No legal status.
Interesting Facts: The cabbage palm is the state tree of Florida and South Carolina. It is cold hardy to at least 15˚F. Cabbage palm leaves were used by indigenous people to make nets, baskets, and thatch. Seminoles used the trucks for poles, paddles, arrows, and more. People still cook and eat the terminal bud or “cabbage” of the palm, calling it heart of palm. Eating the bud kills the palm.
On the Coast: Cabbage palms are common along the Georgia coast and are highly hurricane and fire resistant.