A dominant understory species in our lowcountry habitat is saw palm (Serenoa repens). Its leaves (called fronds) grow from an on-ground or underground stem and form clusters of evergreen fans. The name "saw palm" comes from the hacksaw-like teeth on the stem that connects the frond to the main underground stem. Its fragrant flowers are white, small, and carried on arching sprays. Once pollinated, the flowers form nutritious blue-black berries that are eaten by an impressive list of wildlife, including deer, raccoons, opossums, sea gulls, woodpeckers and many songbirds. These berries are also used in alternative medicine as a treatment for prostate problems. These plants can form dense stands that are critical resting and nesting habitat for our wildlife. You can help save this habitat by pruning only the dead fronds from this plant so that these wildlife "thickets" are preserved.
When we use plants like saw palms in our landscape or preserve them during site development, we are preserving our island's character as a barrier island, helping our wildlife, and saving money on pesticides, fertilizers and water, as native plants are pest and drought tolerant and have evolved in our native soils. For all these reasons, "going native" is a great idea for the environment and for your pocketbook!
Native & Naturalized Plants of the Carolinas & Georgia: www.namethatplant.net/