| Nypa (NEE-pah) |
PHILIPPINES: Mindanao:: Camiguin prov. Guinsiliban; coordinates of general area 5 feet 9 5 60.00 N, 124 47 0.00 E, 29-Oct-13. Female Inflorescence. Photo by Dr. Derek D. Cabactulan.
Habitat and DistributionAndaman Is., Bangladesh, Bismarck Archipelago, Borneo, Cambodia, Caroline Is., Hainan,
This species ranges from Sri Lanka and the Ganges Delta through to the west Pacific. In South and South-East Asia it is found in Bangladesh, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, China (Hainan Island), India, Indonesia, Japan (the most northern distribution is Iriomote Island), Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Sri Lanka (where it also has a range extention due to planting), Thailand, and Viet Nam. In Australasia, it is found in northwest and northeast Australia, the Federated States of Micronesia, Guam, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands. (iucnredlist.org)
The species has been introduced to Cameroon and Nigeria in West Africa and to Panama in Central America and Trinidad and Tobago in the Caribbean. In much of its native range it has been planted and exists in large or small-scale plantations. It is unknown if inclusion of plantations would be representative of the natural range. (iucnredlist.org)
This species is found in the upstream estuarine zone in low, mid, and high intertidal regions (Robertson and Alongi 1992). It forms extensive belts along brackish to tidal freshwater creeks and rivers. It is very fast growing, especially in fresh water, and is a competitive species. In Papua New Guinea, Nypa fruticans dominates vast areas of the upper Fly River and other south coast estuaries with high tide river water salinities of 1-10 o/oo (Robertson et al. 1991). The species occurs at similar positions in the Sunderbans Delta of India, which has a relatively high rate of sea-level rise, but this species is blocked from inland migration owing to coastal development, and its area and occurrence has been declining (K. Kathiresan pers. com)
The large fronds are pinnate (feather-like) and usually 3 to 6 (sometimes up to 10) metres long, arising from the base of the plant. Leaflets number up to 120 per leaf, are 60-130 cm long, with a shiny green upper and powdery lower surface. The petiole (leaf stalk) is smooth, shiny and 1-2 m long with a bulbous base enclosing the stem. Leaf bases are below ground, although they are sometimes exposed by erosion. The yellow inflorescences are on long, sturdy stalks arising from the base of the plant. The female inflorescence is a densely packed, spherical head of flowers. The male inflorescence is a club-shaped spike of closely arranged flowers emerging from lateral stalks below the female inflorescence. The large spherical fruiting body is 30-45 cm in diameter. Individual fruits (carpels) are egg-shaped, angular, fibrous, 10-15 cm long, 5-8 cm wide and dark brown. Each fruit holds one egg-shaped seed. Propagules are crypto-viviparous
The nipa palm has a trunk that grows beneath the ground (acaulescent), and only the leaves and flower stalk grow upwards above the surface. Thus, it is an unusual 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 yields a woody nut, these arranged in a cluster compressed into a ball 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. Editing by edric.
|Detailed Scientific Description|
Creeping recumbent palm, (growing horizontally), and bifurcating at more or less regular intervals. Stem covered by marcescent leaves and persistent leaf bases above ground. Leaves 4–7 in crown rarely more; sheath and petiole 1.3–1.8 m long; rachis 6–7 m long; pinnae 70–80 per side; the largest ones the middle portion of the leaf up to 1.2 m long. Inflorescences 90–170 cm long; peduncle 60–90 cm long, terete; prophyll approximately 30-40 cm long; peduncular bracts 20–30 cm long; rachis 30-80 cm long, rachis bracts tubular; number of first order branches 5–10; terminal head of female flowers globose, 6–8 cm diam.; male rachillae 7–12 cm long; female flowers with perianth 3–4 mm long, carpels 8–11 mm long, stigmatic opening 2–3 mm long, covered by viscid droplet at anthesis; male flowers much smaller than female flowers, perianth similar in size and shape; common stalk of three stamens 4–5 mm long. Fruit obovoid, angled, dark brown, 8–11 x 6–8 cm. (Palms of Thailand)
Nypa may seem to be a particularly difficult palm to accommodate in the average palm collection, but our experiences with it indicate that this is not necessarily so. It may never grow into the handsome giant one sees in the wild but a perfectly acceptable, if smaller, specimen can be easily achieved.
Fruits with small sprouts which have not been dehydrated are easiest. They should be planted horizontally in a 150-200 mm container with the apical end nearest the pot side and the short end facing the centre. The soil can be a peatmoss/sand mix or a peatmoss/loam mix. Coarse gravel or sand is not necessary nor desirable. The medium should be resilient and soft. The pot should be kept continually wet, placed in a deep saucer-like container or bucket, with the water-level maintained to immerse the lower 1/3 of the pot. Unless the water becomes foul, there is no need to change it more than weekly.
The young plant should be given a very light shade at the most. This encourages faster growth (because of the warmth) and shorter petioles which are less vulnerable to wind damage. The growth is rapid in a warm tropical climate.
When well established it can be planted out into a prepared site where the soil has been loosened to a depth of 1 m and at least 3 x 5 m in an oval-shaped bed. Plant the palm at one end, facing the shoot towards the other. Make a small levee to hold in water. Ideally the site should be only lightly shaded, to give a more compact and sturdy growth. Keep the plant wet and feed it with any general fertiliser when it looks deficient. As the procumbent trunk advances more space will have to bc made. Keep in mind the branching habit when choosing the site.
Alternatively, a specially built up pond-like structure could be made and filled with a soft, non-compactable mixture of loam and peatmoss or humus. There is no need to add salt to the water. The Nypa palm would make a dramatic feature in ornamental lakes in tropical areas. (Dr. John L. Dowe and Dr. Robert Tucker)
"Stemless palm of the tropics (Asia) that grows only in swamps and riverways. It's water requirements are extrememly high and it can't survive just planted in soil, even if watered regularly. Important economic source of fruit in Asia. Leaves are enormous up to over 20' tall. Impressive palm for those living in the tropics with a lot of water to plant in." (Geoff Stein)
Comments and Curiosities
This is a monotypic genus.
Uses: 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. On the islands of Roti and Savu, nipa palm sap is fed to pigs during the dry season. This is said to impart a sweet flavour to the meat. The young leaves are used to wrap tobacco for smoking. 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. The flower stalk of Nypa fruticans can be tapped, yielding a sweet sap. This sap can be drunk as is, boiled to produce a brown sugar or fermented to form alcohol or vinegar. The young fruits are often eaten as a desert in Singapore. Nypa fruticans, known as rola, is a dreaming or totemic plant for some Tiwi people. Large mud mussels (Geloina coaxans) that grow around the base of the stems in deep mud are eaten after roasting.
Conservation: This species has a very dynamic population. It has experienced general declines due to localized threats throughout its range. This species has almost disappeared in the Indian Sundarbans due to reduced fresh water flow (Kathiresan pers. comm.). However, in some areas it is also increasing due to planting. In the Phillippines for example, other mangrove species have been cleared to plant this species, which may pose a threat to mangrove biodiversity (J. Primavera pers. comm.). In some parts of Africa where it has been introduced, it has become invasive and is considered a pest. As this species prefers more freshwater environments, hyper-saline conditions and strong wave action (including that caused by passing ships) can threaten this species. Although local estimates are uncertain due to differing legislative definitions of what is a 'mangrove' and to the imprecision in determining mangrove area, current consensus estimates of mangrove loss in the last quarter-century report an approximately 20% decline in mangrove areas in countries within this species range since 1980. (iucnredlist.org)
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.
Environmental Requirements: Nypa is not a mangrove in the strict sense, as it does not exploit truly littoral environments nor can it tolerate inundation with undiluted sea-water for extended periods.
Casual observation of most Nypa populations will reveal the limited adaptiveness of the palm. It occurs most commonly in areas where brackish water occurs, extending far upstream into permanent fresh-water areas where tidal-influenced water-level fluctuations are able to carry and deposit the seeds. Secondarily, it can occur on low flats and depressions near or far from the main water bodies, at the base of eroding slopes and cliffs, or on sandy ridges or embankments. It can tolerate infrequent inundation, so long as the substrate in which it grows does not dehydrate for too long a period. The palm grows as an undershrub, infrequently as a tree, or can dominate in mixed forest. The species' 'ecological climax' appears to be in pure stands on islets in the main channels or low flats on the inside of river meanders where fine, rich silt deposits occur. These deposits are replenished frequently by floods or wet season run-off from nearby rivers.
Apart from temperature, the most critical environmental condition for Nypa is the percentage dilution of the sea-water by seaward flowing fresh-water. Nypa does not require saline conditions at all as the luxuriant stands in pure fresh-water indicate; the palm is tolerant of an average low salinity, the salt-water tides being crucial for seed dispersal and deposition of silt.
One of the authors (JD), during visitation to colonies in the Herbert River delta, immediately north of Lucinda, Queensland, noted the unexpected complete absence of seedlings and juvenile plants in the populations. The uniformity of the size-class structure within these colonies suggests that reproduction and expansion of these particular colonies has been by clonal means rather than by recruitment of new plants by seed. (Dr. John L. Dowe and Dr. Robert Tucker)
- Glossary of Palm Terms
- MODERN BOTANICAL LATIN
- "Just To Be Clear"
- A Must See
Dr. John L. Dowe and Dr. Robert Tucker. (Palms & Cycads No. 41 Oct-Dec 1993)
Phonetic spelling of Latin names by edric.
Special thanks to Geoff Stein, (Palmbob) for his hundreds of photos.
Special thanks to Palmweb.org, Dr. John Dransfield, Dr. Bill Baker & team, for their volumes of information and photos.
Glossary of Palm Terms; Based on the glossary in Dransfield, J., N.W. Uhl, C.B. Asmussen-Lange, W.J. Baker, M.M. Harley & C.E. Lewis. 2008. Genera Palmarum - Evolution and Classification of the Palms. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. All images copyright of the artists and photographers (see images for credits).
Many Special Thanks to Ed Vaile for his long hours of tireless editing and numerous contributions.