Palmetto Tree

by:Thomas and Cayce

Why is there a Palmetto Tree on the South Carolina Flag?

In the fall of 1775, the Revolutionary Council of Safety requested that Colonel William Moultrie design a flag for use by South Carolina troops. Moultrie selected a simple design of a white crescent on a dark blue background. The flag was the same color as the soldiers’ uniforms and the crescent echoed an emblem worn on their caps. Interestingly enough, the exact origin of the crescent prior to appearing on the caps is unclear.

When South Carolina became the first state to secede from the Union on December 20, 1860, the General Assembly considered several designs for a flag to represent the new Republic of South Carolina. On January 28, 1861 they ultimately selected the design that is still the state flag of South Carolina today, the familiar palmetto and crescent moon on a dark blue background.

What is the Difference Between a Palm Tree and a Palmetto Tree?

I was thinking about Southern trees again today, I realized I really don’t know the difference between a palmetto tree and a palm tree.

So I Googled it—Only one answer was definitive:
“The palmetto tree has an “etto” at the end and the palm doesn’t.”

With enthusiasm I dropped a quick email to my new Urban Forester, Danny Burbage, tree maintenance specialist at The City of Charleston, South Carolina.

Danny’s Answer: “Palmettos are one variety of over two thousand palm varieties throughout the world. There are 5 species of palm native to SC; Sabal palmetto (in the photos herewith), Sabal minor, Pindo palm, Saw palm and Needle palm.”

Please I also asked: “Why do palm trees sometimes grow with a skinny, weak looking trunk segment low on the trunk?“

Danny’s answer: “When a palmetto exhibits the “skinny” spot, that indicates that it was a bad growing year(s) at that period in the palmetto’s life. It could have been caused by drought, excessive rain, etc.

What is the Difference Between a Palm Tree and a Palmetto Tree?

I was thinking about Southern trees again today, I realized I really don’t know the difference between a palmetto tree and a palm tree.

So I Googled it—Only one answer was definitive:
“The palmetto tree has an “etto” at the end and the palm doesn’t.”

With enthusiasm I dropped a quick email to my new Urban Forester, Danny Burbage, tree maintenance specialist at The City of Charleston, South Carolina.

Danny’s Answer: “Palmettos are one variety of over two thousand palm varieties throughout the world. There are 5 species of palm native to SC; Sabal palmetto (in the photos herewith), Sabal minor, Pindo palm, Saw palm and Needle palm.”

Please I also asked: “Why do palm trees sometimes grow with a skinny, weak looking trunk segment low on the trunk?“

Danny’s answer: “When a palmetto exhibits the “skinny” spot, that indicates that it was a bad growing year(s) at that period in the palmetto’s life. It could have been caused by drought, excessive rain, etc.

What Is a Palmetto Tree?

The Palmetto tree can signify different things to different groups of people. For the people of South Carolina, it is deeply tied to their history. For people who merely enjoy various kinds of palms, it is a beautiful perennial tree that can be found across the Southeastern United States and the West Indies.


The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has several names for the Palmetto tree, including Sabal Palmetto, Cabbage Palmetto, Blue palm, and Inodes Palmetto. It is part of the palm family. It is usually grown to provide shade and to make long streets aesthetically pleasing. The Palmetto tree can grow to approximately 80 feet (24 m) in height and is known for its leaves that are shaped like fans. It grows best in finely textured soils and is a slow grower — only reaching 15 feet (4.6 m) tall when it is 20 years old.


The Palmetto tree has white flowers which bloom in the summer. It has gray-green foliage that can be quite wide in diameter. The black fruit has a single seed and is quite abundant. In fact, the fruit is commonly consumed by animals and research has shown that it is responsible for feeding nearly 25% of the robins and raccoons in the area where it is found.