Caryota urens is a species of flowering plant in the palm family from the Indian Subcontinent and Southeast Asia where they grow in fields and rainforest clearings. The epithet urens is Latin for "stinging" alluding to the chemicals in the fruit. They are commonly called solitary fishtail palm, toddy palm, wine palm or jaggery palm. Its leaf is used as fishing rod after trimming the branches of the leaf and drying. According to Monier-Williams, it is called moha-karin ("delusion maker") in Sanskrit. It is one of the sugar palms.
Caryota urens species is a solitary-trunked tree that measure up to 12 m (39 ft) in height and up to 30 cm (12 in) wide. Widely spaced leaf-scar rings cover its gray trunk which culminate in a 6 m (20 ft) wide, 6 m tall leaf crown. The bipinnate leaves are triangular in shape, bright to deep green, 3.5 m (11 ft) long, and held on 60 cm (24 in) long petioles. The obdeltoid pinnae are 30 cm long with a pointed edge and a jagged edge.
The 3 m (9.8 ft) long inflorescences emerge at each leaf node, from top to bottom, producing pendent clusters of white, unisexual flowers. The fruit matures to a round, 1 cm (0.39 in) drupe, red in color with one seed. Like all Caryotas, the fruit contains oxalic acid, a skin and membrane irritant. As these plants are monocarpic, the completion of the flower and fruiting process results in the death of the tree.
This species is called kithul (කිතුල්) in Sri Lanka. It is the source of kithul treacle, a liquid jaggery. Toddy is extracted from the inflorescence, and is considered some what powerful compared to toddy extracted from few other palm trees. Pulp of the fully grown up plant is cut, sun dried, powdered and is edible. It is sweet in taste. This powder is considered cool and nutritious in Coastal districts of Karnataka. In Sri Lanka, the powder is mixed with coconut milk and cooked to make Kithul Thalapa (කිතුල් තලප).
Elephants are fed both the leaf and the pulp of this plant.
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- SciDev.Net. "Sweet science: Sri Lanka's rural treacle industry". SciDev.Net.
- "Sri Lanka's 'Kithul' Palm Syrup: An Ancient Sweetener In Need Of Saving". NPR.org.
- ""Kithul Syrup Can Be Sri Lanka's Maple Syrup To The World"". 27 April 2015.
- Riffle, Robert L. and Craft, Paul (2003) An Encyclopedia of Cultivated Palms. Portland: Timber Press. ISBN 0-88192-558-6 / ISBN 978-0-88192-558-6 (Page 292)