Each state within the United States typically identifies various things as symbolic or iconic representations of the state. Official state trees typically are native to the state or represent either important agricultural significance or a principle with which the state strongly identifies. In 1953, Florida legislators chose the sabal palm as the official state tree of Florida. Also known as a cabbage palm, sabal palmetto or just simply palmetto, this is the most prolific native tree in Florida. Wild specimens as well as ornamental plantings of sabal palms appear statewide.
In 1949, a bill was introduced to the Florida House of Representatives recommending that the state adopt an official tree. Since 1868, the Florida State Seal had prominently featured a coconut palm. Members of the House of Representatives, however, suggested the royal palm as well as several native species of pine as candidates for the state tree of Florida. Ultimately, a campaign strongly backed by the Florida Federation of Garden Clubs successfully lobbied for the selection of the sabal palm as the official state tree of Florida.
As officially recorded in the Florida Statutes, Title 4, Chapter 15, Section 15.031 contains the official declaration of the state tree of Florida, and it provides clarification of commercial use. Owing to the tree's usefulness for medicinal, culinary and ornamental industries, legislators established no restrictions on industrial or commercial use of sabal palm trees. Consequently, the state tree of Florida provides commercial benefit to the state as well as serving as one of the state's emblems. In 1970, Florida lawmakers passed legislation to change the Florida State Seal to feature a sabal palm rather than the coconut palm.
The most widely grown tree in Florida, the sabal palm grows to a height of more than 60 feet (20 m). Drupes, the type of fruit produced by this tree, are believed to have been used by some American Indians as an analgesic for headaches and to reduce fevers. Its fronds, consisting of long, pointed leaflets, sprout from a central point known as the terminal bud or, more commonly, the heart of palm. Commercial growers cultivate thousands of sabal palmettos each year to harvest the terminal buds. Heart of palm salads and the cut, canned heart of palm used in many Brazilian recipes are derived from sabal palmettos.