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Florida State Tree

Sabal Palmetto Palm Sabal palmetto Adopted:1953
Florida State Tree: Sabal Palmetto Palm
Florida State Tree: Sabal Palmetto Palm
Photograph © Bruce Sorrie

Adoption of the Florida State Tree

For vacationing beach-goers, it may be hard to imagine that Florida could consider any tree but the "palm tree" as the official state tree but, to Floridians, the choice was more complicated. The sabal palm (Sabal palmetto) was only one of the trees suggested to represent the Sunshine State. The slash pine (Pinus elliotii) and the longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) were also contenders. Of course, these important lumber species could not compete with the image a palm tree would provide for Florida tourism interests.

In the middle of the 20th century, the Florida Federation of Garden Clubs supported adoption of a palm tree to represent the state but not the royal palm introduced in the Florida House of Representatives in 1949. They much preferred the sabal palm (Sabal palmetto) and convinced the Florida Legislature that the sabal palm was more common throughout the state. Their campaign was successful and in 1953 the sabal palm (Sabal palmetto) was adopted as Florida's official state tree.

After Florida had declared an official state tree, an additional tree related issue was revived. In 1868, the cocoa tree had been defined as an original element on the Great Seal of the State of Florida. A State Department of Agriculture publication referred to the tree on the Great Seal in 1923: "The cocoa or palm tree, is the emblem of victory, justice and royal honor." The web site of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services: Forestry Division referred to the tree on the Great Seal as the coconut palm (Cocos nucifera).

In 1970, the Florida Legislature approved legislation that replaced the cocoa tree on the Great Seal of the State of Florida with Florida's official state tree, the sabal palm.

The sabal palm is often referred to as the cabbage or palmetto palm and sometimes as the Carolina palmetto, common palmetto or, by it's scientific name, the Sabal palmetto.

The Florida Statutes

The following information is excerpted from the Florida Statutes, Title 4, Chapter 15, Section 15.03.

Additional Information

Florida State Tree: Sabal Palmetto Palm
Florida State Tree: Sabal Palmetto Palm
Photograph by R.A. Howard
Courtesy Smithsonian Institution

Cabbage Palmetto (Sabal palmetto (Walt.) Lodd. ex J.A. & J.H. Schultes): Tree Identification Fact Sheet from the Virginia Tech.

Plant Profile for Sabal palmetto (Walt.) Lodd. ex J.A. & J.H. Schultes (Cabbage Palmetto): USDA, NRCS. 2004. The PLANTS Database, Version 3.5 (http://plants.usda.gov). National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA.

Sabal palmetto (Walt.) Lodd. ex J.A. & J.H. Schultes (Cabbage Palmetto): United States Department of Agriculture: Forest Service: Agriculture Handbook 654: Silvics of North America.

Sabal palmetto (Cabbage Palmetto): Plant Encyclopedia from MyGardenGuide.

State Tree List: List of all of the state state trees.

The Trees of Florida: A Reference and Field Guide: by Gil Nelson. Illustrated by Marvin Cook, Jr. Pineapple Press (FL) (August, 1998)

A Field Guide to Eastern Trees (Peterson Field Guides) (Paperback): by George A. Petrides, Janet Wehr (Illustrator), Roger Tory Peterson (Series Editor), Houghton Mifflin; 2 edition (July 15, 1998).

A Field Guide to Trees and Shrubs : Northeastern and north-central United States and southeastern and south-central Canada (Peterson Field Guides(R)): by George A. Petrides (Illustrator), Roger Tory Peterson (Series Editor), Houghton Mifflin; 2 edition (September 6, 1973).

A Field Guide to Eastern Forests : North America (Peterson Field Guides(R)) (Paperback): by John C. Kricher (Photographer), Gordon Morrison (Illustrator), Roger Tory Peterson (Series Editor), Houghton Mifflin (October 15, 1998).

National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Trees : Eastern Region: by Elbert Luther Little. Knopf; Chanticleer Press ed edition (May 12, 1980).

America's Famous and Historic Trees: From George Washington's Tulip Poplar to Elvis Presley's Pin Oak (Hardcover) by Jeffrey G. Meyer. America's Famous and Historic Trees tells the stories of various trees that Meyer and his cohorts rescued or propagated: oftentimes, when trees were going to be cut down, he and his workers headed off the bulldozers, rescuing the tree with their massive tree hoe. Other trees--like the Indian Marker Pecan in southeast Dallas--were propagated before they died.

Trees : National Champions (Hardcover) by Barbara Bosworth. Bosworth captures the ineffable grace and dignity of trees with clarity and directness: the green ash that shades a midwestern crossroads, the common pear that blooms in a Washington field, and the Florida strangler fig with its mass of entwining aerial roots. Her black and white photographs, panoramic views taken with an 8 x 10 camera, show the immensity of the largest species and the hidden triumphs of the smallest

Plants, Seeds & Flowers: Bulbs, seeds, plants, fertilizer, plant containers and more.

Gardening Tools: Pruners, rakes, shovels, hoes, trowels, cultivators and tillers, greenhouses, yard carts and more.

State Names, Seals, Flags, and Symbols: A Historical Guide, Third Edition - Benjamin F. Shearer and Barbara S. Shearer, Greenwood Press, 2002

State Names, Flags, Seals, Songs, Birds, Flowers and Other Symbols: A Study based on historical documents giving the origin and significance of the state names, nicknames, mottoes, seals, flowers, birds, songs, and descriptive comments on the capitol buildings and on some of the leading state histories, Revised Edition - George Earlie Shankle, Ph.D., The H.W. Wilson Company, 1938 (Reprint Services Corp. 1971)


Source: 2005 Florida Statutes, (http://www.leg.state.fl.us/Statutes/index.cfm?Mode=View%20Statutes&Submenu=1&Tab=statutes), October 8, 2005
Source: Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services: Division of Forestry, (http://www.fl-dof.com/), October 24, 2005
Source: State Names, Seals, Flags, and Symbols: A Historical Guide, Third Edition - Benjamin F. Shearer and Barbara S. Shearer, Greenwood Press, 2002

 
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