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Saw palmetto grows in large colonies along the coastal plain of the Southeastern USA, often as an understory to pine trees.Additionally, it is endemic to and the most common native palm in the USA. This small palm has multiple trunks, typically underground. Additionally, it is prostrate and it spreads by rhizomes to form dense “shrub like” colonies a few feet tall. Sometimes they grow upright to 15 to 20 feet. Each trunk has 3 to 7 palmate leaves ranging in width from 1.5 to 3 feet wide. Leaves on individual plants are green, bluish green or a silver gray.
Furthermore, the petioles are armed with spines and sharp teeth, hence the common name. Dead leaves adhere to the plant and provide fuel for fires, which the palm can withstand. Each plant produces 1 to 3 inflorescences with white flowers. Single-seeded ovoid fruits are 1/2 to 3/4 inch long, black in color at maturity. Seeds are easily germinated. The fruits are edible and a traditional food item of native American peoples. The fruits also have reputed medicinal properties. Saw palmetto is a hardy palm, grows well on sandy or alkaline soils and is frost tolerant. It can serve as a ground cover and an effective barrier plant. It can become a weed in pastures.