Native Sabal Minor in North Carolina
Common Name: Dwarf Palmetto

Gary Hollar
Member: Southeastern (US) Palm Society
Past President Southeastern (US) Palm Society
Member: International Palm Society
Gary's Nursery, LLC.  Comercial Palm Grower
New Bern, NC

Copyright © Gary Hollar 1999-2022
The most widely distributed native palm in the continental United States. It is native to NC, SC, GA, FL, AL, MS, LA, TX, OK and  AR. This small palm was the first palm in the United States to be botanically named and described. The common name is Dwarf palmetto.

Sabal minor (Dwarf Palmetto) is native to most of the NC counties adjacent to the coast and several counties inland from the central coastal plain and south.. It is a very cold hardy bush type palm growing beside creeks and rivers here in eastern NC . The most common size found in habitat here is around four to six feet with no visible trunk, however we have found specimens up to ten feet or so in height with small one to two foot trunks in Hyde, Brunswick, Beaufort, Pamlico, Carteret and Currituck Counties.

In recent years Sabal Minor has emerged as a desirable landscape specimen. They are planted as singles or in groups in wet, shady areas where many other plants would not thrive.  Minors can also be planted in full sun in wet or dry soil and they make a wonderful under-story plant.
Very old trunking Sabal minor over eight feet tall in western Hyde County, NC beside the Pungo River.
Photo by Carl Cornelius
Sabal minor used as a foundation plant in Jaycee Park in Raleigh, NC. These were rescued from a construction site on Emerald Isle by a city employee many years ago. 
Many Sabal minor in NC have palmate leaves. Here is a leaf from the large  specimen, in the next photo, near Washington in Beaufort County NC, with somewhat costapalmate leaves. This specimen is most likely pushing 100 years old.
Sabal minor used as foundation shrub. This palm was rescued from in front of a building that was going to be demolished in downtown New Bern and I was asked to rescue it. I rescued it and planted it at my home after several years of recovery in the nursery. It had been struggling at the original location for possibly 40 years or more. Now under good care it is thriving.
Sabal minor used as an under-story plant with Crape Myrtle. Nice contrasting color, drought tolerant with the ability to take sun or shade. The deer don't seem to bother them but they along with birds and other critters enjoy the seed. Grown from local native seed.
Gary's Nursery supplied these Sabal minor to Lloyd's Nursery, near Wilmington, for use as a transition plant between a marsh and a lawn area. Around 800 were planted among some existing ones.
Sabal minor in habitat along Slocum Creek in Craven County, NC
Extremely old Sabal minor found by Carl Cornelius along a tributary of the Pungo River in Hyde County, NC. I stand 6'-4"
Photo by Carl Cornelius
Above: Nursery grown Sabal minor around 10-12 years from seed.
Sabal minor (Dwarf Palmetto) in production, all grown from seed collected in NC, Gary's Nursery in Craven County, near New Bern, NC.
My palm hunting friend for the last 30 years, Carl Cornelius, with Sabal minor 10 feet tall in Pamlico County, NC.
In 2006 the late, great palm hybridnizer Dr. Merrill Wilcox, from Florida, came to visit my nursery in 2006 and wanted to see this specimen. I was honored to take him there. He couldn't believe we had such large specimens here in NC.
Large 8-9 ft Sabal minors growing in a hardwood swamp in Pamlico County near Oriental, NC.  I took my friend and fellow NC nurseryman, Tony Avent, to this site to take photos and collect seeds and he now markets this as Sabal minor "Oriental Giant". This was his first trip to see native NC Sabal minor in habitat.
Above: Sabal Minor planted at Gary's Nursery in 1986 and is shown here after 4 below zero in1989. No major damage.

Below: The same Sabal minor above is shown 23 years later, in 2012, in the middle of larger offspring from naturalizing. These have had no supplimentary water over the years.
Native Sabal minor on Monkey Island, NC in the Currituck Sound. After this trip in 2007 I sent two 9' leaf specimens to the herbarium in Raleigh, NC to document with actual leaf samples the most northern known native location of Sabal minor. Others had recently written a paper stating that the most northern population was in Martin County but I had read Liberty Hyde Bailey's account of observing them in Perquimans County in 1944 and had seen photos of them on Monkey Island in the Currituck Sound, a few miles south of the VA line. .
After assistance from my friend, Jesse Perry of the Museum of Natural Science in Raleigh, I obtained a Federal Permit and was taken there by boat by a ranger with the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

No one had ever collected leaf samples from the Monkey Island population, for herbariums, so that was my mission.

Brunswick County, NC

I found this10 foot Sabal minor along the edge of HWY 17 in Brunswick County in March 2013..
A native population of Sabal minor in Latham-Whitehurst Park in Craven County.
Above: Sabal minor used as a shrub under taller palms at my home in Craven County, NC
Erosion Control along a river bank in Craven County, NC
Sabal Minor used in a bio-retention pond in New Bern. The roots of these stay under water for weeks at times but also thrive in sandy soil once established.