Undifferentiated Plant Meristem Tissue

“Honey, what’s for dinner?”

“Your favourite: undifferentiated plant meristem tissue, sautéed in butter.”

Mmm, mmm.  Sounds delicious, no?


You might wonder how or why I got here.  Read on. 

This year we’re snowbirding in South Carolina, nicknamed “The Palmetto State.”  Since 1939 South Carolina has claimed the sabal palmetto as its state tree.  Appearing on the state flag, great seal, and state quarter, the palmetto symbolizes the defeat of the British fleet at Sullivan’s Island off Charleston during the Revolutionary War.  Something about the palmetto logs used in the fort’s construction absorbing the force of the British cannonballs.  I say “something” because 18th-century forts (subtopic: bombardment, unsuccessful) not being my metier.

According to Wikipedia, the sabal palmetto has many noms de plume: sabal palm, palmetto, Carolina palmetto, common palmetto, cabbage-palm,  swamp cabbage, cabbage palmetto, and blue palmetto, which latter is pretty much the only blue thing not immortalized by Elvis Presley (here, here, and here).

Did you note the frequency of “cabbage” in this list?  There’s a good reason for that.  Read on.

The growing heart of the new fronds, also known as the terminal bud,
gives the tree its “cabbage” name,
since this is extracted as a food
and tastes like other undifferentiated plant meristem tissue,
such as the heart of a cabbage or artichoke.
(Ed’s note: Bolding added for emphasis.)
Wiki article on sabal palmetto

And just like that I realized that I have been eating undifferentiated plant meristem tissue my whole life and never known it.  Indeed, every Christmas in my memory I have eaten plant meristem tissue differentiated only by its red colour, and at this very moment I have undifferentiated-plant-meristem-tissue rolls in my refrigerator.

But what sparked my initial interest in the sabal palmetto?  Read on.

Due to its aforementioned historical significance and symbolic uses, the palmetto is a familiar motif on tourist items down here.  Some might say overly familiar, although who am I to judge?

It’s also widely used in home decor, especially in rental properties.  Some might say over-used.  On this latter point I feel that I can trust my judgement.

Examples of palmetto design used in home decor items
Sample (i.e. non-exhaustive examples) of home decor items in our SC rental

While providing a sense of place is a legitimate aim of interior design, I have to say that I think it’s possible to overdo things.



  1. Tom Watson

    Well, there’s my learning for today. I grew up on a farm, and have spent a fair bit of time in farming communities over the years, and never before had been introduced to the fact that there is “undifferentiated meristem” and I also see there is “differentiated meristem.”

    Guess we just didn’t need to know that.

    Although, truthfully, on the farm stuff just “was the way it was” and no explanation was needed. For example, I had left the farm by a good few years when I discovered why the corn planter planted two rows at once. It was only when I grew one row of corn in my back yard garden that I discovered why.

  2. Alison

    Oh! I know that answer, and I’m a “city girl” It’s because you need the two rows (or more) close together so that the plants pollinate. Mostly, we plant corn in a grid pattern so that the plants are close together.
    You can also plant runner beans in the same hill, so that the red flowers of the beans attract more bees, hence helping pollination.

    1. Isabel Gibson

      Tom – What?! You’re not hanging on every comment? 🙂 So there you have it – cross-pollination. And don’t forget the runner beans as facilitators.

        1. Isabel Gibson

          Tom – LOL. Have you seen The Secret of NIMH? Worth it just to listen to Dom DeLuise doing the crow’s voice as he finds “sparkly” bits to collect.

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