Texas Palm

By: Carl C. Wright

Type: General Entry

Published: July 1, 1995

Updated: December 3, 2015

The Texas palm (Sabal texana or S. mexicana), also known as Texas palmetto, Rio Grande palmetto, palma real, and palma de Micharas, is a native of the lower Rio Grande valley. It is a stocky palm that grows to a height of twenty to forty-eight feet and has large blue-green, fan-shaped leaves that form a thick, rounded crown. Small white flowers produce an edible, dull-black berry that matures in the summer. The tree has gray to reddish-brown bark and soft reddish-brown wood. The Texas palm has a continuous range extending from the lower Rio Grande valley in Texas through eastern Mexico to Guatemala and to Oaxaca and perhaps farther north on the west coast of Mexico. Texas palms were reported along the Rio Grande up to eighty miles inland from the Gulf of Mexico as late as 1852, but by 1925 agricultural clearing had severely reduced the number of the trees in Texas, and none was reported more than sixty miles above the Gulf. By 1986 only about 100 acres of Texas palms existed in Texas, most of them clustered in thirty-two acres of the Audubon Society's Sabal Palm Grove Sanctuary, located in Cameron County; the tree was listed as a threatened species by the Texas Organization for Endangered Species. Residents of the lower Rio Grande valley have historically found a number of uses for the Texas palm. The fruit has occasionally been sold in markets in Matamoros and Brownsville, the leaves have been used for chair seats and roof thatching, and the trunks have been used as posts for wharves. Texas palms have also been used as ornamental plants in parks and along streets in many southwestern Texas towns.

Cyrus Longworth Lundell, Sabal Texana (Renner, Texas: Texas Research Foundation, 1961). James C. McCurrach, Palms of the World (New York: Harper, 1960). Robert Vines, Trees, Shrubs, and Woody Vines of the Southwest (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1960).

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Carl C. Wright, “Texas Palm,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 14, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/texas-palm.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

July 1, 1995
December 3, 2015