Panoramic Photo of Saw Palmetto


WalkwayDomain - Eukarya: Serenoa repens is a eukaryote that has membrane bound organelles and a true nucleus. These are examples that help us classify saw palmetto in the Domain Eukarya.

Kingdom - Plantae: This organism has the ability to perform photosynthesis, has chloroplasts, and their cell walls are also made of cellulose.

Phylum - Magnoliophyta: They have spirally arranged carpels, and are most likely the ancestors of both monocots and dicots. Like we see in saw palmetto after a fire, the Magnoliophyta's are often dominant in their habitats. This is because of the unique way in which they reproduce and particular vegetative features that they have. Every plant in this phylum does double fertilization and are often self pollinators.

Class - Liliopsida: These are know as monocots. There are approximately 60,000 species of angiosperms in this class. They are mostly herbaceous. The monocots do not have secondary growth because their vascular cambium does not all connect together. They do not connect together because their vascular bundles are very spread out in the stem. The veins of these plants in the class Liliopsida are usually shown to be parallel; which is one characteristic of monocots.

Order - Arecales: This is where things begin to narrow down. This order only has one family in it which is the Arecacea. Most of these plants are only found in the tropics or subtropics. It is interesting to note that in this order there are very important economical plants.

Family - Arecacea: This family has an amazing fossil record. Many have been well preserved. Some date back 80 million years. That is all the way back to the Cretaceous Period!! They have a diverse structure as well. You can pick this family out from other palms very easily. One specific characteristic, or lack thereof, is that they do not exhibit sympodial branching.

Genus - Serenoa: This genus is characterized by one plant - Serenoa repens. So the characteristic of saw palmetto is what we can use to describe this genus. The singular plant in this genus has a saw-like appearance on the outside of its leaves. It is used for many medicinal purposes and not just recently either. It has been used by humans in North America for a long time, dating back as far as even the Mayans.

Species - Serenoa repens: We are finally at the species level where we find the one and only Serenoa repens.

Broad Phylogenetic Tree

The phylogenetic tree below shows a broad view of where Serenoa repens lives in the grand scheme of things. From the top we see the Eukarya. All of the eukaryotes fill in under this single domain. One of the main characteristics of the eukaryotes are that they have a true nucleus. Following the domain we come to the five supergroups. Serenoa repens falls under the Archaeplastida, and then under the land plants. Next we will follow our trail to the Magnoliophyta, and then down to the class Liliopsida.

From this tree you can get a good picture of where saw palmetto is in relation to other organisms. If you look at the right side of the chart, you can see that saw palmetto is not even in the same supergroup as the Fungi and the Animals. So S. repens is not very closely related to Animals or Fungi.  


Specific Phylogenetic Tree

Now, that you have a broad idea of where this Magnoliophyte is on a phylogenetic tree, let us take a closer look. In the tree below we see the subclass Commelinidae, and below that we see three orders of Palmae: the Pandanales, Arecales, and Alismatales. Many palms fit into these orders. They are designated into these particular orders because of morphological reasons like the structure of their inflorescence and because their leaves look similar in the way they cluster.

Recent studies have shown that even though they may look similar, they are actually not as closely related to each other as we previously thought. Therefore, the palmae have been split into different families, and S. repens has been placed into the Arecales family.

It was thought that these organisms share a common ancestor at some point, because these plants have similar cell walls and flavonoid compounds.  DNA analysis has now proven that this is true and that common ancestor can be found in the subclass Commelinidae.

Sabal etonia is similar morphologically and physiologically to Serenoa repens. They both have long leave lifetimes, they are good at surviving in environments with low levels of light, and they are good at preventing desiccation.

Specific Tree

Now, that you know where Serenoa repens lives on a phylogenetic tree, see where it lives in the environment at the habitat page!

Maybe you do not feel like going to the habitats page... Feel free to go back to the main page.