Simply Sabals

Florida Native Sabals

Our speaker in July, 2016 was  Lisa Dougherty from Boggy Creek Trees. She spoke about Sabal Palms, our Florida state tree, and explained the benefits of regenerated palms versus the problems with hurricane cut palms. 


  • Slick: Removing the boots or bracs on the tree with a sharp instrument tp create a smooth lower trunk. Using something sharp might damage the trunk. This is not a "best practice" as the boots are there to protect the trunk. As the tree matures the bracs will losen and can be pulled off by hand. Boots eventually fall off by themselves.
  • Hurricane Cut: Removing all the fronds. The practice began to keep the fronds from causing damage when blown off by a hurricane. Then it was discovered that Sabal palms recovered more quickly from transplant shock if the fronds were cut.
  • Regenerated Palm: "Sabal Palms are initially dug in the field and hurricane cut. The palms are then re-planted in a nursery environment and are consistently irrigated and fertilized to stimulate maximum regeneration of the roots and fronds." Boggy Creek Farm

    These palms have 98% success rate when planted in the landscape. They cost more, but the expense of replanting is saved, you have healthier tree with growing fronds. You do not have the scalped look while you wait for the hurricane cut to grow out. 

Most Sabal Palms are harvested from natural growing stands. Lisa explained that this is because seedlings take years to put on a trunk. Often a farmer or developer will contract with Boggy Farms to clear out an area. The trees are hurricane cut and baffed. If your landscaper buys a tree at this point, all of the root regeneration and frond development will take place in your landscape. Regenerated palms are taken to the nursery, heeled in, and cared for in the nursery while they regrow their roots and fronds.

Sabals have to have 6 to 8 feet of trunk in order to be able to recover from transplanting. If you want a smaller tree, you'll need to start it from seed. Boggy Creek Farms is a wholesale nursery. In The Vilages area, Terrascape and Fairfield Farms sell regenerated trees. Lisa strongly recommends that before you accept a palm into your landscape that you cut away the bag around the bottom to make sure there is a good root ball.

In the picture below, all trees are hurricane cut, the ones on the left and right are slicked. The ones in the center still have their boots on. People wants trees sliked because they like the look. However, in one of Lisa's slides she shows the bountiful wildlife that use the Sabal Palm. Slicking reduces the ability of the plant to meet the needs of wildlife.

Sabal Palms

Lisa Dougherty, Boggy Creek Tree Farm

History and Culture

Images: Sabals-history-and-culture

Species & Ecology

Recently, a new mutant form of Sabal palmetto has been discovered in South West Florida, and named as a cultivar Sabal palmetto 'Lisa'.

The difference between the 'Lisa' and the wild-type Sabal palmetto is in the form of the leaf. The 'Lisa' has leaves that are costapalmate, acute, not pendulous, not filamentose, rigid, not strongly divided, cupped, and slightly undulating.

This mutation of Sabal palmetto is beginning to be seen in the nursery trade, as it is just as hardy to cold, salt, drought, fire, and wind as the wild type of the species, but looks different. 

Seeds from Sabal palmetto 'Lisa' have a 68% chance of becoming true to type, the other 32% develop as the wild type. 

Images: Sabals-species-and-ecology


Images: sabals-design

Best Practices

Images: sabals-best-practices


Jamie Wright
Principal Landscape Architect

Blake Gunnels
Landscape Architect

Courtesy of :
Dix Hite + Partners

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