What Are Cabbage Palms: Information On Cabbage Palm Care

Also called Sabal palms, cabbage tree palms (Sabal palmetto) are a native American tree that ideal for warm, coastal areas. When planted as street trees or in groups, they give the entire area a tropical atmosphere. Showy white flowers on long, branching stalks bloom in early summer, followed by dark, edible berries in fall. The fruit is edible, but more appealing to wildlife than humans.

What are Cabbage Palms?

Cabbage palms are capable of reaching heights of 90 feet or more in the wild, but in cultivation they usually grow only 40 to 60 feet tall. The tree’s 18- to 24-inch wide trunk is topped by a rounded canopy of long fronds. It isn’t usually considered a good shade tree, but clusters of cabbage palms can provide moderate shade.

The lower fronds sometimes drop from the tree leaving their base, called a boot, attached to the trunk. These boots create the cross-hatched pattern on the trunk of the tree. As the tree matures, the older boots fall off leaving the lower part of the trunk smooth.

Cabbage Palm Growing Region

The cabbage palm growing region includes USDA plant hardiness zones 8b through 11. Temperatures below 11 F. (-11 C.) can kill the plant. Cabbage palms are particularly well-adapted to the Southeast, and they are the state tree of both South Carolina and Florida. Nearly hurricane-proof, the tree remains standing against the wind long after pine trees snap in two and oaks are uprooted.

Choose a sunny or partly shaded site in any well-drained soil. The hardest part about growing a cabbage palm tree is getting it planted just right. Take care with the roots when transplanting the tree. Cabbage palms are drought-tolerant, but only after all the roots that were damaged during transplanting regrow from the base of the tree. Until then, you’ll have to water deeply and often to make sure the tree gets the moisture it needs.

Cabbage palm care is easy once the tree is established. In fact, it will do just fine if left to its own devices. One thing you may want to do is remove the little seedlings that come up where the fruit falls to the ground because they can become weedy.


Superficial resemblance to : a Tree

Uniquely identifiable characteristics

Distinguishing Feature :

No relation to : Cabbage . Nor to Chusan Palm (Trachycarpus fortunei) which has fan-shaped leaves but is in the differing Palm family (Arecaceae).

There are six different ‘Cabbage Palms’ (as a common name) known as such in the World, but only one Cabbage Palm is extant in the UK, namely the above, Cordyline australis. It is usually to be found growing near the sea and is often planted in gardens.

A native of Australia. Not really a tree, it just looks like one, but rather a flowering plant, a monocotyledon with just one seed-leaf in the initial sapling stage rather than a pair. The fruit is a berry. The leaves are very tough and can be made into paper. Young shoots are eaten in New Zealand. Dying leaves emit a phosphorescent light in the wild.

Yucca, a plant belonging to the same family, has similar leaves and also white flowers, but the flowers are bell-shaped and larger on Yucca. The flowers of Cabbage Palm, which are on multiple panicles forming a plume, are fragrant. The fruit is a blue-white berry 6mm across, drying with age. The bole has the same diameter throughout its length, and merely grows fatter each year . The bark is creamy-grey and has square cracks.


Tigogenin aka Sapogenin, first discovered before 1931, is a furostanol and spirostanol steroidal saponin found in Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum) from which it derives its name, Woolly Foxglove aka Grecian Foxglove (Digitalis lantana) and in Cabbage Palm. It is isomeric with Sarsapogenin, with one of the oxygen atoms occupying the adjacent 5-membered ring instead. Tigogenin is obtained commercially from the waste residues of the production of sisal fibres from the leaves of Agave sisalana and American Agave, which is in the same Asparagus Family as is Cabbage Palm. Tigogenin is useful as a starting material for the production of other steroidal compounds used in pharmacy. It may even have beneficial effects itself yet to be fully evaluated (92% of human trials of pharmaceuticals fail due to adverse toxicity, and that is after they have passed the animal trials).

Caring for Your Cabbage Palm Trees

(Last Updated On: December 2, 2014)

In centuries past, Seminole Indians used the cabbage palm tree’s heart as food, its fronds as brooms, and the trunks for water pilings. A truly exceptional plant. Today, though, to preserve these wonderful trees, Florida homeowners and residential lawn care services are better served using them as decorative elements and beautiful additions to landscapes.

About Cabbage Palm Trees

The cabbage palm, also known as the sable palm, is a Florida favorite. It is prized for its affordability and versatility – it is able to grow in both seawater and freshwater conditions. Soils with a variety of pH levels, salt, and densities can host these trees, and with minimal care, they can enjoy a long life – and you can enjoy gorgeous scenery outside your window.

Taking Care of Your Palm
If you don’t have a green thumb, not to worry. Cabbage palms, once established, are hardy and low-maintenance. Some tips:

  • When you transplant a cabbage palm, water it frequently. It will need far less water when it is established. In fact, it is quite drought-resistant.
  • Take a soil sample to measure the pH. You can find testing kits at nearly any home or box store. If the pH is above 7.90, add some fertilizer to the soil. Ask your local nursery or residential lawn care professional about the proper soil amendments.
  • When you see yellow or brown fronds on your tree, prune them away to reduce insect activity. Other than that, cabbage palms do not require extensive care.
  • Look out for palm weevils (1 -1.5 inches, red or black) when your tree is young, and cabbage palm caterpillars (pink and has tiny spines on body) when it matures. If you notice these insects, contact a Brevard County pest control service for help eradicating them.

Cabbage palm trees make excellent additions to yards and provide cooling shade. With a little simple care, yours can thrive for years.

Opting for deciduous

Maori made extensive use of ti kouka. The leaves were used for cloaks, sandals, baskets and – being more durable in salt water than flax – for fishing lines and anchor ropes. It was an important food, especially south of Banks Peninsula. As Professor Helen Leach notes in 1,000 Years of Gardening in New Zealand, “where it was too cold for the kumara to grow, the young cabbage tree … was used as a source of sugar after prolonged baking at high temperatures in the earth oven”.

Maori also used some of the medicinal properties of the tree to treat cuts, cracks and sores, diarrhoea, stomach pain and colic. The name “cabbage tree” came about because early European settlers followed the Maori example and ate the blanched inner leaves and heart of the branches. They also made beer from the roots.

Instead of grumbling about the leaves that wrap around your lawn mower, as they do, just try planting a cabbage tree back from the edge of your lawn. It will reward you with a sense of God’s own flora in your garden. It eventually gets to 6m in a garden situation and often gives a sense of perspective, giving height, structure and distinctive form to plantings.

Added benefits are the large panicles of fragrant white, bird-attracting flowers that protrude out of the head of plants six or so years old.

The flowering period is October to December, then from March through to May cabbage trees are copious producers of fruit, favoured by many native birds. I have several trees, for those reasons and one other – our family cat uses them to sharpen his claws, rather than inside our house!

Most people are familiar with the plain green form (C. australis), which I prefer, but the slightly smaller, purple-leaved C. australis ‘Purpurea’ has its followers.

There are many cultivated forms, too, such as C. australis ‘Red Star,’ an improved dark red form, and C. australis ‘Albertii’, a green and white striped variety, striking as a container plant as it grows only to about 4m.

There are many others offered by garden centres, including dwarf forms that are the result of crosses with other species. ‘Red Fountain’ is a C. banksii x C. pumilio hybrid with deep wine red foliage C. x obtecta ‘Green Goddess’ has wide, bright green leaves and C. ‘Purple Tower’ is a low-growing deep red hybrid, perfect for a shady corner, or just as happy in a tub on the deck in full sun.

So when you are thinking what would be great addition to your own piece of paradise, try the humble cabbage tree and you will be rewarded for many years to come.

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