Borassus flabellifer

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Borassus flabellifer
Asian palmyra palm, Sugar palm
Asian palmyra (Borassus flabellifer).JPG
Borassus flabellifer
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Monocots
(unranked): Commelinids
Order: Arecales
Family: Arecaceae
Genus: Borassus
Species: B. flabellifer
Binomial name
Borassus flabellifer

Borassus flabellifer, the Asian palmyra palm, toddy palm, or sugar palm, is native to the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia, including Nepal, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Laos, Burma, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines.[2] It is reportedly naturalized in Mauritania, Socotra, and parts of China.[3] It is a palm tree, one of the sugar palm group.


Borassus flabellifer is a robust tree and can live more than 100 years and reach a height of 30 metres (98 ft), with a canopy of green-bluish leaves with several dozen fronds spreading 3 m (9.8 ft) across. The very large trunk resembles that of the coconut tree and is ringed with leaf scars. Young palmyra palms grow slowly in the beginning but then grow faster with age.[citation needed]


Main article: Palmyra fruit
Fruits of Borassus flabellifer, Vietnam.
Nungu drink, Tamil Nadu, India.
Edible jelly seeds of palmyra palm, Guntur, India

The Borassus flabellifer plant and fruit is known as Nungu(நுங்கு) in Tamil, Taati Munjalu (తాటి ముంజలు) in Telugu, Taale Hannu or Taale ningu(ತಾಳೆ ಹಣ್ಣು / ತಾಳೆ ನಿಂಗು) in Kannada, Tal gaha (තල් ගහ) in Sinhala, Tala in Oriya, Tnaot (Khmer: ត្នោត) in Khmer, Thốt Nốt in Vietnamese, Luntar in Bahasa Sūg (Tausug), Tari in Hindi, Taal (তাল) in Bengali, Pana Nangu(ml:പനം നൊങ്ക്)in Malayalam, Munjal in Urdu, Lontar in Indonesian, Siwalan in Javanese, Ta'al in Madurese, Ton Taan (th:ตาล) in Thai, Akadiru by the East Timorese, Tao in Divehi, Tadfali (pronunciation variations are Tad-fali or Taadfali) in Gujarati, Targula in Konkani, Tadgola (ताडगोळा) in Marathi, Myanmar, Htan Bin (ထန်းပင်), and sometimes Ice-apple in British English especially by the immigrants living in India.[citation needed] The fruit measures 4 to 7 inches in diameter, has a black husk, and is borne in clusters. The top portion of the fruit must be cut off to reveal the three sweet jelly seed sockets, translucent pale-white, similar to that of the lychee but with a milder flavor and no pit. The jelly part of the fruit is covered with a thin, yellowish-brown skin. These are known to contain watery fluid inside the fleshy white body. These seed sockets have been the inspiration behind certain sweets Sandesh called Jalbhara (জলভরা) found in Bengal.

The ripened fibrous outer layer of the palm fruits can also be eaten raw, boiled, or roasted. Bengali People have perfected the art of making various sweet dishes with the yellowish viscous fluidic substance obtained from a ripe palm fruit. These include Mustard oil fried Taler Bora (তালের বড়া), or mixed with thickened milk to form Taalkheer (তাল ক্ষীর).


Obtaining the sap traditionally involves tapping the top shoots and collecting the dripping juice in hanging earthen pots. The juice so collected before morning is refreshing and light drink called Thaati Kallu (తాటి కల్లు) in Telugu, Neera (नीरा) in Marathi and "Pathaneer" (பதநீர்) in Tamil is extremely cool in sensation, and has a sugary sweet taste.[citation needed] The juice collected in evening or after fermentation becomes sour, and is called Tadi (ताडी) in Marathi. Tadi is consumed mostly by coastal villagers Maharashtra as a raw alcoholic beverage.[citation needed]

A sugary sap called toddy, can be obtained from the young inflorescence, either male or female. Toddy is fermented to make a beverage called arrack, or it is concentrated to a crude sugar called jaggery or Taal Patali (তাল পাটালী) in Bengali and Pana Vellam or Karuppukatti (கருப்புகட்டி or கருபட்டி) in Tamil. It is called Gula Jawa (Javanese sugar) in Indonesia, and is widely used in Javanese cuisine. In addition, the tree sap is taken as a laxative, and is believed to possess medicinal virtues[which?] that have also been ascribed to other parts[which?] of the plant.[citation needed]


Main article: Palmyra sprout

In the states of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, and Bihar India, and in Jaffna, Sri Lanka, the seeds are planted and made to germinate and the fleshy stems (below the surface) are boiled or roasted and eaten. It is very fibrous and nutritious, Thegalu (తేగలు) or Gaygulu (గేగులు) or Gengulu (గెంగులు)(especially in Telangana areas) in Telugu and known as Panai Kizhangu or Panangkizhangu (பனங்கிழங்கு) in Tamil, and htabin myiq (ထန်းပင်မြစ်) in Myanmar.

The germinated seed's hard shell is also cut open to take out the crunchy kernel, which tastes like a sweeter water chestnut. It is called Buragunju (బురగుంజు) in Telugu or "thavanai" in Tamil.

The white kernel of the ripe palm fruit after being left for a few months is used as an offering in Lakshmi Puja in various parts of Bengal and is also eaten raw.


Female tree, showing foliage crown with fruit
Male tree with flower
Sugar palm as seen in Mumbai,India

The Borassus flabellifer leaves are used for thatching, mats, baskets, fans, hats, umbrellas, and as writing material.

All the literature of the old Tamil was written in preserved Palm leaves also known as Palm-leaf manuscript. In Tamil Yaedu or Olai chuvadi. It was written with a sharpened iron piece called an Eluthani (எழுத்தாணி in Tamil).[citation needed]. Most of the ancient literature in Telugu are written on palm leaves (Tala patra grandhas).

In Indonesia the leaves were used in the ancient culture as paper, known as "lontar". Leaves of suitable size, shape, texture, and maturity were chosen and then seasoned by boiling in salt water with turmeric powder, as a preservative. The leaves were then dried. When they were dry enough, the face of the leaf was polished with pumice, cut into the proper size, and a hole made in one corner. Each leaf made four pages. The writing was done with a stylus and had a very cursive and interconnected style. The leaves were then tied up as sheaves.[citation needed]

The stem of the leaves has thorny edges (called "karukku" in Tamil). Fences can be prepared from these stems by nailing them together.[citation needed]

The skin of the stem can be peeled off and be used as rope and also used to weave into cots (நாற்கட்டில் in Tamil). In some part of Tamil Nadu, a variety of rice flour cake (called "Kolukattai") is prepared using the leaf.[citation needed]


The stalks are used to make fences and also produce a strong, wiry fiber suitable for cordage and brushes. The black timber is hard, heavy, and durable and is highly valued for construction. In Cambodia, the trunks are also used to make canoes.[citation needed]

The young plants are cooked as a vegetable or roasted and pounded to make meal.[citation needed]


When the crown of the tree is removed, the segment from which the leaves grow out is an edible cake. This is called thati adda(తాటి అడ్డ/తాటి మట్ట) in Telugu or pananchoru(பனஞ்சோறு) in Tamil.

Palmyra Tuber Palmyra tuber has 98% fibre which means up to 95% is starch content.


Borassus flabellifer has a growth pattern, very large size, and clean habits that make it an attractive ornamental tree, cultivated for planting in gardens and parks as landscape palm species.

Cultural symbolism[edit]

Borassus flabellifer in Cambodia, 1965.
  • The palmyra tree is the official tree of Tamil Nadu. Highly respected in Tamil culture, it is called "karpaha Veruksham" ("celestial tree") because all its parts have a use. Panaiveriyamman, named after panai, the Tamil name for the Palmyra palm, is an ancient tree deity related to fertility linked to this palm. This deity is also known as Taalavaasini, a name that further relates her to all types of palms.[4]
  • The Asian palmyra palm is a symbol of Cambodia where it is a very common palm, found all over the country. It also grows near the Angkor Wat temple.[5]
  • The palm is also common in Thailand, especially in the northeast or Isaan area, where it is a prevailing part of the landscape.
  • This plant has captured the imagination of Bengalis in the words of Rabindranth Tagore whose nursery rhyme 'Taal Gaach ek Paye daariye' (তাল গাছ এক পায়ে দাড়িয়ে.., literally Tall tree standing on a single leg....) in Sahaj Path (সহজ পাঠ) is a staple reading material in most schools in West Bengal & Bangladesh

See also[edit]


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