While there are over 2,500 different palm species in the world, only 14 palm species, belonging to 9 genera, are truly native to the United States. With thousands of palm trees growing all over the United States, it’s hard to believe that most of them have been imported.
Most palms can be found growing in the southeastern and southern States, extending from North Carolina through Florida and the Gulf Coast into Texas and as far inland as Arkansas and southeastern Oklahoma. But, the greatest number of palms grow in Florida.
While most palms prefer low-lying areas, there are some that can thrive in mountainous regions. Keep in mind, that most palms can be grown far beyond their natural distribution. Under the right conditions, palms can be successfully cultivated far from their place of origin.
14 Palm Trees That Are Native to the United States
In addition to these 14 types of palms, there are two palm species, the Coconut, and Date, that naturalized a long time ago.
The naturalization process happens when the palms escape cultivation and begin to propagate on their own. Of course, the soil and the climate must be suitable.
Out of the 14 palm species, only nine are full-sized trees, two species are shrubs that do not resemble trees at all, and the other three can take on a tree-like appearance under certain conditions.
The most popular of our native palms are probably Cabbage Palmetto, Royal Palm, Texas Palmetto, California Fan Palm, Dwarf Palmetto, and Needle Palm. Let’s look at each type of palm tree a little bit closer.
1. Buccaneer Palm Tree (Pseudophoenix sargentii)
Better known in cultivation than in the wild, the Buccaneer Palm is another warmth-loving palm native to southern Florida, the Florida Keys, and various islands of the Caribbean.
It features a self-cleaning, ringed trunk that is crowned with dark green, feathery-shaped leaves, each measuring about 7 feet in length. This is a medium-sized palm that can reach heights of up to 35 feet in the wild but typically doesn’t exceed 10 feet in cultivation.
The Buccaneer Palm, scientific name Pseudophoenix sargentii, is also referred to as the Cherry Palm, Sargent’s Cherry Palm, and Palma de Guinea.
2. California Fan Palm (Washingtonia filifera)
Also known as the Desert Fan Palm, Washingtonia filifera is the only palm native to the western United States. It’s a study palm with a massive brown-gray trunk about 3 feet wide and a large, open crown of fan-shaped leaves. This palm can reach heights of up to 60 to 75 feet.
Washingtonia filifera can be found growing in the rocky areas bordering the Colorado Desert of southeastern California, Yuma County, Arizona, as well as northern California.
The most famous and frequently visited group of California fan palms is located in Palm Canyon near the base of the San Jacinto Mountains. Arizona has about a hundred palms hidden away in a deep canyon of the Kofu Mountains.
3. Cabbage Palm Tree (Sabal palmetto)
The Cabbage palm, also known as Cabbage Palmetto, is a durable palm that earned its name due to the edible bud or “cabbage” it produces. This adaptable palm can grow up to 80 feet tall but typically reaches a height of no more than 50 feet.
It features a grayish-brown trunk covered with old leaf bases, also known as “boots,” measuring about 1 to 2 feet in diameter. The rounded, dense, and heavy crown consists of large fan-shaped fronds that are approximately 5 to 8 feet long.
Sabal palmetto can thrive in a wide range of conditions, showing a preference for low-lying wet areas but also thriving in dry, rocky, or sandy environments.
The largest native grove of Cabbage Palms, covering approximately 150,000 acres, can be found in Indian Prairie between the Peace River and Lake Okeechobee in Florida.
This palm extends along the coast from North Carolina southward into Florida. While they can also grow in the Western United States, they are less commonly cultivated there.
4. Dwarf Palmetto Palm (Sabal minor)
The Dwarf Palmetto Palm, scientific name Sabal minor, is native to the Atlantic Coast, ranging from central Florida north to Monkey Island, North Carolina.
On the Gulf Coast, it can be found stretching from central Florida to central Texas, and Arkansas, extending north to southern Oklahoma and northern Alabama, and reaching southward into Mexico.
This extremely cold-hardy palm naturally thrives in diverse habitats, including floodplains, forests, swamps, and sometimes even in drier areas.
It features a short trunk that remains mostly underground and can slowly grow up to 3 feet tall. Its fan-shaped leaves are approximately 6 feet long, composed of about 35 leaflets.
5. Florida silver palm (Coccothrinax argentata)
Another palm species found in southern Florida, along the eastern coast, and throughout the Florida Keys, is the Florida Silver Palm, scientifically known as Coccothrinax argentata.
This heat-loving palm boasts a slender trunk, typically around 6 inches in diameter, and a crown of fan-shaped leaves spanning approximately 2 feet in width.
This palm tree can reach heights of up to 25 feet, although it can also take on a more shrubby appearance.
What sets it apart from Thatch palms is the distinctive silvery undersides of its leaves, hence its common name, the Florida Silver Palm.
6. Jamaican Thatch Palm (Thrinax parviflora)
A closely related but lesser-known palm than the Key Thatch is the Jamaican Thatch Palm, scientifically known as Thrinax parviflora. It thrives in the southern region of Florida and on various islands in the West Indies.
This palm features a slightly slimmer trunk, approximately 6 inches in diameter, compared to the Key Thatch.
However, its foliage is quite similar, with fan-shaped leaves measuring 2 to 3 feet in width and a lighter-colored underside.
7. Key Thatch Palm (Leucothrinax morrisii)
The Key Thatch Palm, scientific name Leucothrinax morrisii or Thrinax morrisii, thrives in the southern portion of Florida, the Florida Keys, and various islands in the Caribbean.
It goes by several common names, including Brittle Thatch, Broom Palm, Peaberry Palm, Sea Thatch Palm, and Blue Thatch Palm.
This medium-sized palm features a slender gray trunk, crowned with blue-green or yellow-green fan-shaped fronds.
It is frequently mistaken for Coccothrinax but can be easily distinguished by its split petiole bases and white fruits.
8. Louisiana Palmetto Palm (Sabal louisiana)
The Louisiana Palmetto Palm, scientific name Sabal louisiana or Sabal minor var. louisiana, closely resembles the Dwarf Palmetto but often distinguishes itself by forming an above-ground trunk that can reach heights of about 3 to 6 feet.
Due to this striking resemblance, many tend to dismiss the Louisiana Palmetto Palm as a mere variant of Sabal minor. However, the development of its trunk, sometimes extending to heights of 10 feet, strongly suggests that they are distinct species.
This palm species is predominantly found in a handful of swampy regions in Louisiana and eastern Texas.
9. Needle Palm Tree (Rhapidophyllum hystrix)
One of the hardiest cold-tolerant palm species, the Needle Palm, scientifically known as Rhapidophyllum hystrix, is indigenous to the coastal margins of subtropical regions in the eastern Gulf and the southern Atlantic states of the United States.
This resilient palm can be found growing along the coast, starting from the southeastern tip of South Carolina and extending southward into Florida, as well as westward across the coastal plain of Mississippi and southern Alabama.
Unlike many other palms, the Needle Palm does not develop a traditional trunk. Instead, it features slender stems, each reaching approximately 6 feet in length, which grow closely together from a single base.
This slow-growing plant ultimately forms a dense base, standing at about 3.5 feet in height, adorned with sharp needle-like spines between its fronds.”
10. Paurotis Palm (Acoelorrhaphe wrightii)
The Paurotis Palm, scientifically known as Acoelorrhaphe wrightii or Paurotis wrightii, is a clustering palm characterized by the formation of tight clumps of distinctive slender trunks.
It grows in colonies, sprouting from an underground main stem with multiple suckers clustered at its base.
Each Paurotis Palm showcases approximately 20 fan-shaped fronds, which exhibit a green upper surface and a silvery underside.
These fronds are elegantly arranged into crowns, perched atop stems tinged with an orange-green hue and armed with spines. The Paurotis palm can attain impressive heights of 20 to 30 feet, with a width ranging from 5 to 10 feet.
This palm species thrives in the Everglades of Florida but is absent from the Florida Keys. Among its various common names are the Everglades Palm and the Silver Saw Palmetto Palm.
11. Royal Palm (Roystonea regia)
The Royal Palm, scientifically known as Roystonea regia or Royastonea elata, is also commonly referred to as the Florida Royal Palm or Cuban Royal Palm. It boasts a stone-grey trunk faintly ringed, topped with a magnificent crown of gracefully curved, dark, feather-shaped leaves.
The trunk can reach a thickness of up to 2 feet at the base. While the Royal Palm can grow to towering heights of 90 to 100 feet in its natural habitat, it typically doesn’t exceed 50 feet in cultivation.
This palm species is native to the three southernmost counties of Florida, flourishing near tidal waters and on low-lying terrain. Among the most renowned specimens are those that thrive in specific areas of the Everglades in Florida.
In recent years, the Royal Palm has faced a threat of near-extinction due to the destruction of many specimens by fire and their transplantation as ornamental trees.
12. Scrub palmetto (Sabal etonia)
The Scrub Palmetto Palm, scientifically named Sabal etonia, is exclusively native to Florida, primarily thriving in the sandy regions of Florida’s lake area.
This bushy plant, also referred to as the Entonia Palmetto, typically features a single underground stem that can occasionally develop into an above-ground trunk reaching up to 6 feet in height.
The Scrub Palmetto palm typically displays between four to seven fan-shaped fronds, each bearing 30–50 leaflets. Due to its restricted distribution, this palm species is not as widely recognized or popular.
13. Saw Palmetto Palm (Serenoa repens)
The Saw Palmetto Palm, scientifically known as Serenoa repens, is the most widespread among our native palms. It can thrive in various types of soils and is particularly well-suited to sandy shores, where only a few other plants can flourish.
In the pinelands of Florida and neighboring states, it practically behaves like a weed, growing in dense clusters and reaching a towering height of approximately 7–10 feet. What sets this palm apart is its astonishingly slow growth rate and remarkable longevity, with some palms boasting ages of up to 600–700 years.
This palm’s native habitat encompasses the subtropical Southeastern United States, stretching from South Carolina down to the Florida Keys and all along the Gulf coast, extending as far as Louisiana.
Serenoa repens also goes by the names Silver Saw Palmetto Palm and Scrub Palm.
14. Texas Palmetto Palm (Sabal mexicana)
The Texas Palmetto Palm, scientifically known as Sabal mexicana or Sabal texana, is closely related to the Sabal Palmetto but stands out with a larger and more substantial crown of fan-shaped leaves.
It’s also shorter and stouter compared to the Cabbage Palmetto, reaching heights of up to 50 feet and measuring up to 3 feet in diameter.
This palm species grows naturally on both the Texas and Mexican sides of the Lower Rio Grande River. The most renowned grove can be found near Brownsville, Texas.
Needless to say, the Texas Palmetto is the most popular ornamental tree in Texas and is widely planted along the Gulf coast.
Palm Trees Naturalized In the United States
Two palm tree species, Coconut and Date palms, were introduced to the United States by travelers long ago. Over time, they escaped cultivation and established self-sustaining populations.
1. Coconut Palm (Cocos nucifera)
The Coconut Palm, scientifically referred to as Cocos nucifera, stands out as one of the most renowned and extensively distributed palm species.
Optimal growth for the Coconut Palm occurs in low-lying coastal areas with an annual rainfall exceeding 50 inches and access to groundwater. Under favorable conditions, this palm can also thrive inland, even in elevated terrain.
You can spot this heat-loving palm flourishing in southern Florida, extending from Palm Beach southward.
While some of these palms may give the impression of being native, they were actually introduced to the region long ago.
2. True Date Palm Tree (Phoenix dactylifera)
The True Date Palm, scientifically known as Phoenix dactylifera, stands as one of the oldest cultivated plants in history. It was introduced to the United States by Spanish missionaries long ago. Date palms have an impressive lifespan, often reaching ages of 100 to 200 years.
These palms feature a gray trunk with an ornamental diamond-shaped pattern of leaf scars, measuring approximately 16 inches in diameter. Their leaves are stiff, grayish-green, and feather-like, extending to lengths of 10 to 20 feet.
You can spot Date palms growing along the Gulf coast, in Florida, as well as in southern California, southern Texas, and Arizona.
Map Of Places With Palm Trees In The United States
What Palm Trees Are Native to California
In California, there are several palm tree varieties that can thrive, but the sole native palm is the California Fan Palm, scientifically known as Washingtonia filifera, and also referred to as the Washington Palm.
In its natural habitat, you can find the California Fan Palm growing in rocky areas along the borders of the Colorado Desert in southeastern California, Yuma County in Arizona, and even in some parts of northern California.
It’s important to note that all other palm species in the state were originally imported. For further information on palm trees in Southern California, please refer to additional resources.
What Palm Trees Are Native to Hawaii
Despite its favorable climate, Hawaii boasts only one native palm species, known as the Loulu palm, scientifically classified as Pritchardia. The Pritchardia genus includes 25 species of palms native to the tropical Pacific Islands, with an impressive 19 of them naturally occurring in the Hawaiian islands.
Date palms, Traveler’s palms, Coconut palms, and Bottle palms, on the other hand, have been introduced to the islands over the years.
Loulu palms are characterized by their single trunk and fan-shaped leaves. Typically, they are medium to large-sized palms, reaching heights of 25 to 60 feet. The coloration of their leaves and fruit varies depending on the specific species.