Temporal range: 70Ma Late Cretaceous - Recent
|Nipa Palms in Bohol, 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 has a trunk that 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), 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 Indian and Pacific Oceans, from Bangladesh to the Pacific Islands. The plant will survive occasional short-term drying of its environment. It has become naturalised on the Atlantic side of Panama's coast.
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 swimming 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.
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.
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- John Leslie Dowe. Australian Palms: Biogeography, Ecology and Systematics. p. 83. Retrieved April 20, 2012.
- Singh R. S., 1999, Diversity of Nypa in the Indian subcontinent; Late Cretaceous to Recent. The Palaeobotanist 48(2):147-154.