Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Dwarf Palmetto

Dwarf Palmetto (Sabal minor) is the next labeled plant along the boardwalk. The Dwarf Palmetto is aptly named as it does not produce a trunk above the ground in its eastern range. Although sometimes confused with an immature cabbage palmetto (the state tree of South Carolina), it can be differentiated by looking at the leaves. The Dwarf Palmetto has no filaments in its leaf segments and the midrib only shows at the very base of the leaf segment.

According to A Guide to the Wildflowers of South Carolina by Richard Porcher & Douglas Rayner, "The flowrs are a source of honey, and Native Americans used the fruits for food. Although the dried leaves are used occasionally for thatch roofs, dwarf palmetto has no economic value and is of limited use to wildlife."

When walking along the boardwalk, the Dwarf Palmetto can be used as an indicator for the transition zone between the always wet areas and the always dry areas. The palmetto can be found deep in the swamp encircling isolated high ground. If you're patient enough, deer that often bed down on the high ground within the Dwarf Palmetto might feel that they have been detected (though you will not have done so) and bolt from cover.

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