Common Names: Puerto Rican hat palm, hat palm
Family: Arecacea/Palmae (palm Family)
Palm Drought Tolerant Has Unusual or Interesting Foliage
One of the most striking Sabal species is Sabal causiarum, the
Puerto Rican hat palm. This palm is distinguished from other Sabals
by its massive smooth gray trunk which can grow up to 4 ft (1.2 m)
in diameter! Most Sabals retain their old leaf bases on the trunk,
creating a textured crisscross or "cabbage leaf" pattern instead of
a smooth trunk. The leaves of Puerto Rican hat palm are large,
usually about 6 ft (1.8 m) long and just as wide. They are
costapalmate, which means the petiole, or leaf stem, extends into
the leaf. The leaves are deep green in color and are deeply divided
to about half their length into several segments which may droop at
The Puerto Rican hat palm forms a dense canopy of about 40
leaves. As the older leaves droop to 45-90 degree angles from the
trunk, they turn brown, die and fall off. Many other Sabal species,
like Florida's native cabbage palm (Sabal palmetto) tend to retain a
'hula skirt' of dead leaves about its trunk.
Sabal causiarum, which can grow up to 50 ft (15.2 m) in height,
produces long flower stalks which hang out over the canopy. The
numerous small flowers are white to cream in color. The round fruits
are about 0.5 in (1.3 cm) in diameter and usually brown or black.
Sabal causiarum, the Puerto Rican hat palm, is native to Puerto
Rico, the island of Hispaniola (Dominican Republic and Haiti) and
adjacent Caribbean islands.
young Puerto Rican hat palms in January 2000
These are Jack's young Puerto Rican hat palms surviving a Zone 8
winter in Tallahassee, Florida. They were planted as seedlings ten
years prior to this photo taken in early 2000.
Jack's hat palm January 2009
These are the same palms eight years later. The largest is about 22
ft (6.7 m) in height. Once their trunks grew to maximum diameter at
the ground the thick trunks begin to elongate (they have a couple
feet of trunk now. These palms are slow growers! It will be a while
before they look like the massively spectacular specimens at the
Fairchild Tropical Garden.
Adaptable to different soil types but prefers very well drained
soils. The only pest problems for this palm are leafhoppers and the
Light: Needs bright sunlight.
Moisture: Tolerates dry conditions once established.
Hardiness: USDA Zones 8B - 11.
Propagation: From seed which germinates in 2-3 months. Warning -
very slow growing! Regular irrigation and feeding will improve
Due to its large size, this palm is probably too large and too slow
growing for the typical suburban yard. In more spacious landscapes,
the Puerto Rican hat palm is best used to line driveways or as a
solitary specimen. On large properties the hat palm is spectacular
planted in groves where the smooth, massive trunks create a living
colonnade that's sure to impress.
This beautiful palm not only tolerates dry areas, making it useful
in xeriscapes, but is hardy to zone 8B. (The ones in the picture
have survived overnight lows of 16ºF (-9 C) with only slight leaf
damage.) The massive leaves and striking trunk combine to make an
assertive tropical statement in the landscape. As a bonus, the
Puerto Rican hat palm requires little maintenance since its leaves
are self pruning.
The Puerto Rican hat palm gets its name from its land of origin,
and from the fact that young leaves are collected from the canopy,
boiled, dried and indeed woven into hats!