The Q&A Archives: Difference Between Palms and Palmettos

Question: What is the difference between a palm tree and a palmetto tree? Which is easiest and better to grow in South Carolina? I know that the palmetto is on our state flag, but I do love the look of palms.

Answer: There are many different types (genera) of palms in the Arecaceae (palmae) family. Palmetto is a common name for the genus Sabal, which is native from North Carolina to South America. There are different species within the Sabal genus, such as 'Sabal palmetto,' which grows to 20 feet or more and is native to the Southeast. 'Sabal blackburniana' is the largest palmetto, trunks reaching 80 feet or more with fronds 9 feet across! Other palm genera including 'Phoenix' (Phoenix canariensis is the Canary Island Date Palm) and 'Washingtonia' (W. robusta is the Mexican Fan Palm) to name just a couple. There are dozens of palms with similar growing requirements. I suggest you look at a few full service nurseries in your area to see what you like. They will stock the ones that are best suited to your growing conditions. I hope this info helps!

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