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(palmetto palm), a genus of plants of the family Pal-mae. The trunks reach a height of 30 m and a thickness of 60 cm; in some species the trunks are greatly shortened. At first the trunks grow underground in a direction away from the soil surface; they then change direction and emerge at the surface. The leaves have a fan-shaped blade with a somewhat elongate axis. The panicled inflorescences reach a length of 2.75 m and have bisexual, trimerous flowers. The fruit is a one-seeded berry.
There are about 25 species, distributed in the southeastern United States (Virginia and Florida), on the Caribbean islands, in Central America, and in South America (Colombia and Venezuela). Palmetto palms grow mainly on moist sandy soils and solonchaks along seas, rivers, and other bodies of water. The wood of tall-trunked species serves as a strong, nonrotting building material for underwater and other structures. The leaf fiber is used in the manufacture of coarse fabrics and mats; the coarse fiber from the petioles and sheaths is used to make brushes. The young, unopened leaves are used as food. Some species of palmetto palm are cultivated as ornamentals. In the USSR the tall-trunked common palmetto (S. palmetto) and the short-stemmed bush palmetto (S. minor, or S. adansonii) are grown on the Black Sea coasts of the Crimea and the Caucasus.