Palmetto and Crescent Moon

Almost every shop you visit has merchandise emblazoned with the beautiful, blue South Carolina flag with its white crescent and palmetto tree. One of the most recognizable state flags in the county, it has a long history dating back to the Revolutionary War.  The spongy trunks of Palmetto trees were used to build the walls of Fort Moultrie on Sullivan’s Island, known at that time as Fort Sullivan. Cannonballs could not penetrate the trunks; instead they just sank into the tough logs, successfully defending the fort from a brutal British attack in 1776.  Colonel William Moultrie led the defense and the fort was later renamed in his honor. After the Revolutionary War, Colonel Moultrie designed our state flag based on the blue uniforms and crescent badges worn by the fort’s guards.  This first flag did not include today’s palmetto tree; it was blue with the white crescent shape in the corner. This flag later became the first recognized South Carolina flag.

Almost 100 years later, the Civil War brought more changes to the flag.  After South Carolina seceded from the union it had fought so hard to create, a flag was developed to fly over the newly created nation.  After many designs were reviewed, the original flag was chosen with one addition; a palmetto tree was added to the center of the blue field in honor of Colonel Moultrie’s victory.  This flag was a little different from the flag we use today.  It is debated that the crescent may not have symbolized the moon at all, but was instead a gorget, a steel collar used to protect the throat in battle.

Early in the 20th century, the crescent was revamped, making it look more like a moon, the palmetto tree was fluffed up and grass was added at the base of the trunk.  Today, the popular flag is one of the best selling banners in the nation, and can be found on everything from tee shirts to Christmas decorations to koozies.

The palmetto tree is also the state tree of South Carolina, but interestingly, the Sabal Palmetto, the most common palm tree in the state, is not considered a true tree because it lacks a wooden truck.  The trees hearts are also said to be delicious cooked, with a flavor similar to cabbage or artichokes.  But please don’t eat one – it will kill the tree!