Item #: 5973-1
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    Clear Trunk Height:

    How we measure palms

    Conditions for Growth

    The tree excels in the loam soil of the Riverside Grove, grown in full sun with intense heat (and good irrigation) during the summer and cold nights during the winter.

    Growth Rate and Size

    Growth rate in Riverside is rather fast at around 12 -14 inches per year. It is said to be among the fastest growing palmettos, and our experience supports this claim. Old specimens can probably reach 40 feet in height, with a 20-22 inch-wide trunk.


    The oral tradition handed down in the family is that the seeds for this palm were originally purchased as S. riverside. Now that the trees are mature, we think that is exactly right.

    The S. riverside palm most closely resembles the Sabal mexicanas in our collection, and is probably best described by how it differs from the S. mexicana and other Sabal palms. As with all Sabals, the solitary trunk has persistent split leaf bases that are rather decorative. The fibrous sheaths in the split bases on the Sabal riverside are a redish-brown hue and rather tidy, unlike the S. mexicana sheaths which are darker and somewhat spindly around the split leaf bases. (Below to the right you will find a picture of the S. mexicana and S. riverside trunks side by side.) The cut leaf bases of the S. mexicanas in the Grove tend to remain a deep hue of green, whereas the S. riverside leaf bases are a dull green and more quickly loose their pigmentation. Both trees are rather fast growers with a leaf deeply split in the middle, long petioles and large attractive leaves. However, the Riverside palm has a wider trunk -- though not nearly as wide as the S. causiarum -- and grows vertically a bit faster than the S. mexicana. Neither exhibit much of a saxophone shape when compared to the S. causiarum. The leaf tips of the S. riverside are also prone to drooping at the tips, and the segments are more deeply divided than the S. mexicana.

    Perhaps the clearest distinguishing factor between the S. mexicana and S. riverside is the size of the fruit and seed. The S. mexicana seed is rather large and similar to that of the S. causiarum. However, the S. riverside fruit is smaller, and when the fleshy mesocarp is removed, the remaining seed is relatively tiny, less than 1/4 inch, and easily distinguished from S. mexicana.

    The S. riverside is said to be a hybrid of the S. bermudana and the S. mexicana. That does not explain all the features. There may be other 'varieties' floating around, such as the Sabal birmingham, that appear suspiciously similar to the S. riverside and probably are of the same seed.

    The S. riverside is a solitary palm with persistent, split leaf bases and neat, red fibrous sheaths, with long 7-9 foot petioles, large at the base, unarmed with sharp margins. The petiole extends into dull green, fan-shaped fronds that are deeply folded in the middle, often drooping near the ends. The trunk has persistent split leaf base that form an attractive cross-hatched pattern.

    Sabal riverside

    Riverside, CA Sabal

    Landscape Environment

    Grow Region:

    Origin: Riverside, CA

    Drought Tolerance: High

    Cold Tolerance: High - 11 to 12F

    Salt Tolerance: High

    Soil: Loam

    Light: Full Soil


    Mature Height: about 40 feet

    Trunk: Ringed , Solitary

    Leaf: Large fronds, deeply costapalmate, arched and deeply folded, sometimes drooping near tips

    Leaf Petiole: 7-8 feet long, robust, sharp along margins

    Armature: None


    Flowers: Long cream yellow, extending beyond leaves

    Fruit: small black fruit, about half the size of the S. mexicana or S. causiarum

    Human Uses: Specimen Tree


    Subfamily: Coryphoideae

    Tribe: Corypheae

    Subtribe: Sabalinae

    Sabal Riverside and Sabal Mexicana

    A Comparison

    The photo to the right shows a Sabal riverside in the foreground and a Sabal mexicana background left. There are some noteable distinctions between these two palms. We welcome any feedback or advice regarding the accuracy of our identification.

    The growing conditions of these palms should be noted, as their grow environment can reach 113 degrees during the summer, and sub-freezing during the winter. The soil conditions are a loam to clay soil, and they recieve regular water. Both these palms were recently trimmed.


    The S. mexicana and S. riverside have a similar trunk width, though the S. riverside is a few inches wider and grows vertically a bit faster. With that said, their growth rate is similar, about 12-14 inches per year.

    Coloration of fibrous sheath:

    The leaf bases of the S. mexican retain a dirty brown spindly, fibrous sheath that covers part of the leaf base split, compared to the attractive redish-brown, almost finely woven split leaf bases of the S. riverside. The Riverside's redish sheath is also a characteristic of the S. bermudana and S. domingensis, lending to the idea that the S. riverside is a hybrid of one of these palms and the S. mexicana. Given the length of the petioles, the more likely candidate is the S. bermudana.

    Leaf Segments and petiole:

    Leaf segments of the S. mexicana are wider, not as deeply divided and tend to remain firm at the tips, compared to thinner S. riverside segments, which are more deeply divided and slightly drooping near the ends. The petioles of each palm are similarly long, at least 7-9 feet, with a crown exceeding the size of the S. palmetto. The width of the petioles on the S. riverside are smaller than the S. mexicana.


    The coloration of the leaf bases of the S. mexican have a deep green color, whereas the S. riverside leaf bases are dull green. With sun exposure and time they will fade to a tan, grey color. Likewise, the petiole and leaf coloration on the S. mexicana is a much deeper hue of green than the S. riverside.