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South Carolina Palm Trees: Both Native & Common Species

South Carolina Palm Trees: Both Native & Common Species

South Carolina continues to be a popular destination for tourists nationwide, thanks to its impressive golf courses, stunning beaches, and enchanting historic neighborhoods.

One of the first things you notice about this proud state is the number of palm trees that dot every corner and stand majestic in its old streets and along the coast. 

Are palm trees native to South Carolina? Only two species of palms are native to South Carolina: sabal palm and needle palm. The first is so ubiquitous in South Carolina that it’s the state tree. Other palms, including Mexican fan palm and jelly palm, also grow in South Carolina but are not native to the state.

That said, South Carolina has every right to be proud of its native palm trees.

Read more to find out about the sabal palm and needle palm and the other palm species that you can see in the state.

South Carolina Native Palm Trees – Sabal Palm & Needle Palm

While the needle palm is really just a shrub that doesn’t develop a trunk, the sabal palm is a tall tree with a massive trunk and a majestic canopy, so much so that the sabal palm ended up as the state tree.

However, that doesn’t mean that the needle palm is lacking in beauty and size even if it has a short stature. 

Sabal Palm

The graceful sabal palm goes by many names including Carolina palmetto, Garfield’s tree, and cabbage palm. It towers over 65 feet high at maturity and has a trunk and canopy to match.

As a native of the southern parts of the United States, it’s the state tree of both South Carolina and Florida.

Where Sabal Palm Trees Grow in South Carolina

Sabal palm trees can be found all over South Carolina.

The tree thrives in the wild along the coast as well as in urban settings. You’ll see it around the mansions and old plantations in the historic districts as well as near Columbia, the capital city. 

Its landscaping value along with its hardiness to salt sprays, drought, and cold temperatures are the main reasons the sabal palm is so popular in the state. 

Are Sabal Palms Fast Growing?

Sabal palms take their time to grow and mature. Putting on about 2 feet of growth a year, the sabal takes up to 20 years or more to reach maturity.

It’s one of those trees that require a lot of patience and care before it establishes and becomes relatively independent. 

Sabal Palm Size & Appearance

On average, the sabal palm ranges from 60 to 70 feet tall depending on the growing conditions. The tree has a canopy to match that stretches between 16 and 20 feet across.

Its trunk is grayish-yellow and is covered by a crisscross pattern of the old leaves. The fronds are bluish-green and spread out like a fan, giving the tree its distinct appearance.

Sabal Palm Price

If you’re buying a mature sabal palm tree, you can expect to fork out a hefty sum. The palm sells by the foot, and each trunk foot costs about $80.

A mature sabal palm could set you back anywhere from $400 to $560 apiece.

Needle Palm

A shrub with a clumping growth habit, the needle palm is worthy of every garden. It doesn’t take up much space, and its lush green foliage is a great addition to your tropical garden.

Add to that its slow growth rate, and you got yourself a low-maintenance shrub that doesn’t put you out with excessive pruning or feeding.

Where Needle Palms Grow in South Carolina

As a cold-hardy palm, the needle palm can be found just about everywhere in South Carolina. Once it establishes, the palm becomes fully independent and grows slowly but steadily as it braves harsh conditions.

It doesn’t require any protection to grow even when the temperature drops below -5℉.

Needle Palm Growth Rate

The needle palm has an excruciatingly slow growth rate. Since it doesn’t grow tall, the only measure of growth you can notice on the palm is the number of fronds.

Every year, the palm will add between two to three fronds at most. As for the clump, it would take the needle palm a good 10 years to form a decent clump.

Needle Palm Size & Appearance

Without a trunk, the needle palm is just a clump with fronds growing out of it, but that’s the secret behind its success both in the wild and as an ornamental plant in the garden.

The mature needle palm averages between 6.6 to 9.8 feet from the base of the clump to the tip of the tallest frond. The lush green fronds have sharp needles between the leaves.

Needle Palm Price

A needle palm that’s about a few years old could cost you between $120 and $180 depending on where you buy it. The more mature the palm, the higher the price.

Other Palm Trees Found in South Carolina

South Carolina is teeming with palm trees, but not all of those trees are native to the state. Some were brought from as far away as Uruguay.

Here are some of those non-native palm trees that call South Carolina home.

  • Mexican Fan Palm: A cold hardy palm with dense foliage that covers most of its thick trunk.
  • Jelly Palm Tree: A medium-sized palm with arching fronds that is native to Brazil and Uruguay.
  • Sago Palm: One of the oldest plants on earth, it’s actually a cycad and not a palm that hasn’t changed for thousands of years. 

Related Questions: 

Are Palm Trees Native to Arizona?

The majority of the palm trees you see in Arizona are not native to that state. The only native palm trees in Arizona are the ones in Kofa National Wildlife Refuge.

Are There Palm Trees in North Carolina?

North Carolina has warm parts, such as along the southern coast, where palms such as California fan palm and Canary Island date palm trees can grow. 


South Carolina has plenty of palm trees that grow in just about every part of that state, but only the sabal palm (the state tree) and needle palm are the two palm species native to the state.