Photographed by Bette Jackson
If you are have difficulty playing the audio click here
Hi, I’m Dr. Jerry Jackson, out with the wild things. Although shrub-like in appearance, saw palmetto is long-lived and slow growing, providing a stable habitat for many kinds of wildlife. The clusters of creamy white flowers are especially attractive to bees and important for the production of high quality honey. Early settlers disliked saw palmetto because its dense thickets sheltered eastern diamondback rattlesnakes. They still do, but these rattlesnakes usually stay hidden within the palmetto or retreat to a safer thicket as humans approach. Wild turkeys often nest in pine flatwoods where there is a dense saw palmetto understory and young gopher tortoises find shelter in the saw palmetto's fronds. By fall, clusters of olive-sized, purple-black fruits have replaced the saw palmetto's flowers, and the plant takes on new value. The fruits are important seasonal food for wild turkeys, fish crows, red-bellied woodpeckers, dozens of other birds and mammals, and gopher tortoises. Black bears are especially fond of saw palmetto fruit and bears and raccoons may shift home ranges seasonally to take advantage of its local abundance.
'With the Wild Things' is produced at the Whitaker Center in the College of Arts and Sciences at Florida Gulf Coast University. For 'The Wild Things', I'm Dr. Jerry Jackson.