Temporal range: 70Ma Late Cretaceous - recent
|Nipa palms in Bohol, the Philippines|
Nypa fruticans, commonly known as the nipa palm, is a species of palm native to the coastlines and estuarine habitats of the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the only palm considered adapted to the mangrove biome. This species is the only member of its genus Nypa which is, in turn, the only member of the subfamily Nypoideae forming monotypic taxa.
The nipa palm's trunk grows beneath the ground and only the leaves and flower stalk grow upwards above the surface. Thus, it is an unusual palm tree, and the leaves can extend up to 9 m (30 ft) in height. The flowers are a globular inflorescence of female flowers at the tip with catkin-like red or yellow male flowers on the lower branches. The flower produces woody nuts arranged in a globular cluster up to 25 cm (10 in) across on a single stalk. The ripe nuts separate from the ball and are floated away on the tide, occasionally germinating while still water-borne.
Nypa fruticans is also known as attap (Singapore), nipa (Philippines), buah atap (Indonesia), buah nipah (Malaysia), dừa nước (Vietnam), ging pol (Sri Lanka),jak - จาก (Thailand), gol pata (West Bengal, Bangladesh), and dani (Burma).
Nipa palms grow in soft mud and slow-moving tidal and river waters that bring in nutrients. The palm can be found as far inland as the tide can deposit the floating nuts. It is common on coasts and rivers flowing into the India] and Pacific Oceans, from Bangladesh to the Pacific Islands. The plant will survive occasional short-term drying of its environment. It is considered native to China (Hainan region), the Ryukyu Islands, Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, Borneo, Java, Maluku, Malaya, the Philippines, Sulawesi, Sumatra, the Bismarck Archipelago, New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, the Caroline Islands, Queensland, and the Australian Northern Territory. It is reportedly naturalized in Nigeria, the Society Islands of French Polynesia, the Mariana Islands, Panama, and Trinidad.
The long, feathery leaves of the nipa palm are used by local populations as roof material for thatched houses or dwellings. The leaves are also used in many types of basketry and thatching. Large stems are used to train swimmers in Burma as it has buoyancy.
Food and beverages
In the Philippines and Malaysia, the flower cluster (inflorescence) can be tapped before it blooms to yield a sweet, edible sap collected to produce a local alcoholic beverage called tuba, bahal, or tuak. Tuba can be stored in tapayan (balloon vases) for several weeks to make a kind of vinegar known as sukang paombong in the Philippines and cuka nipah in Malaysia. Tuba can also be distilled to make arrack, locally known as lambanog in Filipino and arak in Indonesian.
Young shoots are also edible and the flower petals can be infused to make an aromatic tisane. Attap chee (Chinese: 亞答子; pinyin: yà dá zǐ) (chee meaning "seed" in several Chinese dialects) is a name for the immature fruits—sweet, translucent, gelatinous balls used as a dessert ingredient in Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore.
The nipa palm has a very high sugar-rich sap yield. Fermented into ethanol or butanol, the palm's large amount of sap may allow for the production of 6,480–15,600 liters (per year) of fuel per hectare. Sugarcane yields 5,000–8,000 liters per hectare (per year) and an equivalent area planted in corn would produce just 2000 liters (per year) per hectare, before accounting for the energy costs of the cultivation and alcohol extraction.
Fossil mangrove palm pollen has been dated to 70 million years ago. Fossilized nuts of Nypa dating to the Eocene epoch occur in the sandbeds of Branksome, Dorset, and in London Clay on the Isle of Sheppey, Kent, testifying to much warmer climatic conditions in the British Isles at that time.
- The Plant List Nypa fruticans
- John Leslie Dowe. Australian Palms: Biogeography, Ecology and Systematics. p. 83. Retrieved April 20, 2012.
- Flora of China, v 23 p 143, Nypa fruticans
- Wurmb, Friedrich von. 1779. Verhandelingen van het Bataviaasch Genootschap van Kunsten en Wetenschappen 1: 349, Nypa fruticans
- Kew World Checklist of Selected Plant Families, Nypa fruticans
- Singh R. S., 1999, Diversity of Nypa in the Indian subcontinent; Late Cretaceous to Recent. The Palaeobotanist 48(2):147-154.
- Media related to Nypa fruticans at Wikimedia Commons