Rio Grande palmetto
Sabal mexicana

Secondary Names:
Texas sabal palm

Leaf Type: Evergreen
Texas Native:
Tree Description:

A large palm tree to 50 feet tall and a cylindrical trunk to 2 feet in diamter, with a dense, round crown of live fronds and a "skirt" of dead fronds hugging the trunk.

Range/Site Description:

Native populations only in the Rio Grande valley, Cameron County in particular. Formerly present along coastal rivers. Planted widely for ornamental purposes and cold-hardy to Austin.


A large, fan-shaped frond, 4 to 6 feet long and wide, with a stiff, toothless leaf stalk as long as the blade. Central leaf vein forms a stout, curving divide between the two frond halves.


Long branched stalks 7 or 8 feet long, bearing the pale flower clusters in spring.


A round, black berry, 0.5" in diameter, appearing in summer.


Gray, fibrous, and tough, marked with the prominent leaf scars.


Leaves are sometimes used for chair seats and roof thatching; the trunks were once used for posts or wharf pilings.

Similar Species:

Florida sabal (Sabal palmetto) is common landscape palm with shorter leaf stalks; dwarf palmetto (S. minor) is common groundcover in wet areas.

Interesting Facts:

The last native stand of the species in the U.S. is the Audubon Society's Sabal Palm Grove Sanctuary south of Brownsville, Texas.

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