The genus Serenoa currently consists of only one species, Serenoa repens. Commonly called saw palmetto, Serenoa repens is a small fan palm and is endemic to the Southeastern US, primarily in sandy, coastal areas and pine forests.
More Information About Serenoa
Serenoa is a genus containing a single species of fan palm, Serenoa repens. Also known as saw palmetto due to the sawtooth-shaped spines along its stems, this slow-growing palm can be found in clumps growing in sandy soil along the coastal Southeastern US.
Even though mature Serenoa repens is tolerant to drought, hurricanes, and flooding, it can be a difficult palm to grow for the first three years. In colder climates, start in a large container before placing in the ground. Full sun is best. Once established, saw palmettos can reach 8' tall x 12' wide in 10 years.
Saw palmetto extract is commonly marketed as a dietary supplement and treatment for enlarged prostates, urinary track infections, and even cancer. Recent studies, however, have shown little scientific basis for these claims and it can actually be dangerous to ingest if pregnant. Serenoa repens has also been historically used as a folk remedy for stomachaches and dysentery.
The fruit of Sernoa repens was used as both a food source and folk medicine by indigenous people in the Southeast prior to the arrival of European colonists. The Seminole people of Florida used an infusion of the berries to treat various digestive ailments and utilized the stems and foliage to make woven baskets.
Saw palmetto fruit is a food source for over 100 bird species and many mammals, amphibians, and insects. It is also a butterfly host plant for the larva of the monk skipper (Asbolis capucinus) and the palmetto skipper (Euphyes arpa) and a nectar source for many species of butterflies and bees.
The genus was named in honor of American botanist Sereno Watson.