South Carolina is referred to as the Palmetto State because its official tree is the sabal palmetto. This tree is commonly referred to as the cabbage palm and the palmetto palm. Sabal palmetto grows in the sand filled flatlands in South Carolina and has historical importance dating back to the Revolutionary War. After South Carolina seceded from the Union in 1861, the sabal palmetto became a part of the South Carolina's flag.
The palmetto palm is also native to nearby Southeastern states, including Florida, North Carolina and Georgia. It has an erect stem and leaves that are shaped like a fan. Palmetto palm leaves can be eaten while young by animals such as deer and hogs. This indigenous Palmetto State tree also has wood which can be used for pilings.
Coastal forts were constructed from sabal palm wood during the Revolutionary War because the soft material absorbed all impact from cannonballs. The Palmetto State is well suited for this tree due to the abundance of salt and brackish marshes. Mature palmetto fruits are scattered by birds and animals who disperse it throughout local habitats.
During the Revolutionary war, Colonel William Moultrie designed a flag for his South Carolina troops to use. The blue color of the flag was the same as the uniforms of the troops for whom it was designed. A silver emblem from their caps was used in his design. Colonel Moultrie had survived an attack from the British on Sullivan's Island in a palmetto-log fort.
Today, a sabal palmetto is displayed on the South Carolina state seal, which contains images of both a standing and a fallen palmetto tree. The fallen tree symbolizes the British fleet, and the standing palmetto represents the triumphant defenders who fought on June 28, 1776 at Sullivan's Island. A woman is shown on a shoreline with weapons, representing hope for South Carolina. On January 28, 1861, the General Assembly added the palmetto tree to the original design. The addition of the tree to the flag helped to launch the Palmetto State as the official nickname for South Carolina.
The Pledge to the Flag of South Carolina also mentions the palmetto tree. Mrs. John R. Carson wrote the pledge in 1950, and members of the Wade Hamptom Chapter of the United Daughters of the Conderacy requested that the pledge become official. It was later adopted by Act Number 910 of 1966. Those who recite the pledge confirm their loyalty and faith to the Palmetto State.