Observed the plant in question multiple times while vacationing in Hilton Head, South Carolina. Seeing it multiple times leads me to think this plant may be easily recognizable by someone familiar with the local botony. The closeup photo is of one of the young branches. A few people referred to the plant as an “upside-down pineapple plant”. The shape of the young branches, with its spiraling curls, drew me to it.
this is a commonly cultivated plant near the coast and further south, called Cycas revoluta. Side view, of course – the cone is erect. We usually call it sago palm. It is native to Japan. This one has a male cone. The female plants do not have a cone but have unusual leaf-like fruits with seeds along the edge. It is an ancient group of plants that was very common during the time of the dinosaurs, but there are relatively few species left. This is the most common one grown and one can often find individuals for sale as house plants at Lowe’s and other such stores. It is not hardy much north of Hilton Head.
Steve Hill, Botanist, SCNPS