Serenoa repens is unusual in that the stem, rather than being upright like most palms, is horizontal and creeps along the ground. Saw palmetto is endemic to the southeastern U.S. and is frequently found in the understory of pine woodlands. The palm frond above expanded from the protected growing point of the stem after a prescribed fire in Everglades National Park.
The fruits of saw palmetto are about the size of large olives and are a favorite food of black bears. They also have a long history of medicinal use by humans. In some studies an extract of the fruit has been shown to be effective for the treatment of men with symptomatic benign prostatic hyperplasia.