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Serenoa
Saw Palmetto, north Florida
Conservation status

Apparently Secure (TNC)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Monocots
(unranked): Commelinids
Order: Arecales
Family: Arecaceae
Subfamily: Coryphoideae
Tribe: Corypheae
Genus: Serenoa
Hook.f.
Species: S. repens
Binomial name
Serenoa repens
(Bartram) J.K.Small

Serenoa repens, commonly known as saw palmetto, is the sole species currently classified in the genus Serenoa. It has been known by a number of synonyms, including Sabal serrulatum, under which name it still often appears in alternative medicine. It is a small palm, normally reaching a height of around 2–4 m (3–6 ft).[1] Its trunk is sprawling, and it grows in clumps or dense thickets in sandy coastal lands or as undergrowth in pine woods or hardwood hammocks. Erect stems or trunks are rarely produced but are found in some populations. It is endemic to the southeastern United States, most commonly along the Atlantic and Gulf Coastal plains, but also as far inland as southern Arkansas. It is a hearty plant; extremely slow growing, and long lived, with some plants, especially in Florida, possibly being as old as 500-700 years.[2]

Saw palmetto is a fan palm (Arecaceae tribe Corypheae), with the leaves that have a bare petiole terminating in a rounded fan of about 20 leaflets. The petiole is armed with fine, sharp teeth or spines that give the species its common name. The leaves are light green inland, and silvery-white in coastal regions. The leaves are 1–2 m in length, the leaflets 50-100 cm long. They are similar to the leaves of the palmettos of genus Sabal. The flowers are yellowish-white, about 5 mm across, produced in dense compound panicles up to 60 cm long. The fruit is a large reddish-black drupe and is an important food source for wildlife and historically for humans. The plant is used as a food plant by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species such as Batrachedra decoctor, which feeds exclusively on the plant.

Saw palmettos beneath the larger evergreen canopy in the Apalachicola National Forest in Florida

The genus name honors American botanist Sereno Watson.

Saw palmetto extract

The fruits of the saw palmetto are highly enriched with fatty acids and phytosterols, and extracts of the fruits have been the subject of intensive research for the treatment of urinary tract infections. This extract is also commonly used for other medical conditions.

Early studies of S. repens in the treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia were encouraging, suggesting good tolerability and "mild to moderate improvement in urinary symptoms and flow measures."[3] Some trials with differing methodology indicated no difference from placebo.[4][5]

References

  1. ^ Barnard, Edward S. & Yates, Sharon Fass, ed (1998). "Trees". Reader's Digest North American Wildlife: Trees and Nonflowering Plants. The Reader's Digest Association, Inc. p. 131. ISBN 0-7621-0037-0. 
  2. ^ Tanner, George W.; J. Jeffrey Mullahey; David Maehr (July 1996) (PDF). Saw-palmetto: An Ecologically and Economically Important Native Palm. Circular WEC-109. University of Florida Cooperative Extension Service. http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/UW/UW11000.pdf. 
  3. ^ Wilt T, Ishani A, Mac Donald R (2002). "Serenoa repens for benign prostatic hyperplasia". Cochrane Database Syst Rev (3): CD001423. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD001423. PMID 12137626. 
  4. ^ Bent S, Kane C, Shinohara K, et al (February 2006). "Saw palmetto for benign prostatic hyperplasia". N. Engl. J. Med. 354 (6): 557–66. doi:10.1056/NEJMoa053085. PMID 16467543. 
  5. ^ Dedhia RC, McVary KT (June 2008). "Phytotherapy for lower urinary tract symptoms secondary to benign prostatic hyperplasia". J. Urol. 179 (6): 2119–25. doi:10.1016/j.juro.2008.01.094. PMID 18423748. 

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