A Humble Vulgar Tree: Explorations of the Natural and Cultural History of the Cabbage Palm, Sabal Palmetto

Jonathan Miller

A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Liberal Arts, College of Arts and Sciences, University of South Florida St. Petersburg

Abstract

This thesis is a collection of separate essays exploring aspects of the natural and cultural history of the Cabbage Palm, Sabal Palmetto. It includes general observations about the plant, a description of an effort to determine how long they live, how cabbage palms came to appear on the State Seal of Florida, the persistence of cabbage palms in an area of rising sea level along Florida’s Big Bend coast, a discussion of the historic practice of leaving mature palms in citrus groves, the role of cabbage palms in Florida Scrub Jay nesting and honey production, the practice of placing a strip of palmetto leaf in Cuban bread, the role Palmetto Weevils may have played in the development of the semiochemical industry, profiles of a tiki carver and a sawmill operator, and a speculative fiction piece exploring what may have become of the Jody, the protagonist of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, The Yearling.