| Oncosperma (ahnk-oh-SPEHRM-ah) |
Oncosperma tigillarium, South of Kemaman, Teregganu, Malaysia. Oct. 2002. Livastona saribus in the background. Photo by Dr. Scott Zona.
Habitat and DistributionBorneo, Cambodia, Jawa, Malaya, Society Is., Sumatera, and Thailand. "Nibung" is
Oncosperma tigillarium is a very attractive cespitose species with droopy leaves and intensely spiny trunks that forms dense thickets of up to 50 palm trees. It is arguably one of the most beautiful palms in the world. Trunk: Up to 25 m in height, usually only 10-15 cm or up to 25 cm in diameter, slender, straight or slightly curved, greyish, light brown colour, with prominent leaf scar rings covered with long downward or horizontally-spreading spines that are black in colour, flat, 2,5-6,5 cm long. Spines are also all over other plant parts. Crownshaft: Light green up to 1,5 m long. Leaves: 2-4 m long, elegantly arched, finely pinnate, with sharp drooping leaflets, uniformly distributed on the rachis and long, in the median part, about 50 cm. Inflorescence: Ramified and thorny, among the leaves, yellow with flowers of both sexes placed in the typical triad (a feminine flower amidst two masculine ones) The spadix is 30-40 cm wide and longer at crown apex. Blooming season: Flowers in summer and fruits in winter. Fruits: Globose, 12 mm about of diameter, green and turning blackish when ripe. (llifle.com)
Clustering palm, dense black spines, on the stem, sheath, petiole, and rhachis. The inflorescenes have a beautiful red color. Globular fruit. "An immensely fabulous-looking, tall, large, slender, cespitose (tuft-forming) palm massed with armed trunks and beautiful, elegantly-arched, drooping, leathery fronds, which is sparsely distributed along the inland fringes of mangrove forest and other low, wet, swampy vegetation. Trunk slender, up to 15 cm in diameter, ringed with old leaf scars, numerous (up to 50), densely armed with scattered, slender black spines that are about 5 to 10 cm long; crownshaft conspicuous, armed with slender, black spines. Fronds pinnate (feather-shaped), ascending to spreading, pendulous, elegantly-arched, armed, dark to bright green. Inflorescences ramified (multi-branched), yellow, up to 80 cm long, infrafoliar (emerging from below the fronds), armed; flowers arranged in groups of 3 (2 male flowers to 1 female flower). Fruits globose, 1 cm in diameter, mildly-depressed, purple to black single-seeded (National Parks of Singapore).
Nibung (Oncosperrna tigillarium), is one of eight palm species known from the Krakatau Islands. The tree is tall, clustering and spiny with distinct crown shafts, and pinnately divided leaves. Nibung may reach in excess of 25 m in height and clusters may have up to l0 major stems. Based on the collections at Herbarium Bogoriense and other available information (e.g., Seeman 1856, Ethelbert Blatter 1926).
Nibung is an clustering palm species, growing up to 25 metres tall with leaves up to 3.5 metres long. The stems, which are covered with sharp black prickles 25 - 65 mm long, are 10 - 15 cm in diameter, occasionally to 25 cm. A densely clumping species, with usually 15 - 30 mature stems per clump, though there are sometimes hundreds. The plant is particularly valued in its native range for its edible, apical bud which is gathered from the wild. The tree also provides a useful timber. Editing by edric.
|Detailed Scientific Description|
Clustering palm with numerous stems per clump. Individual stems up to 20(–25) m tall, 10–15 cm diam. Leaves 10–20 in crown; leaf sheaths forming a 60–70 cm long crownshaft, greenish tinged to cream coloured, sparsely covered with up to 10 cm long spines; petiole 10–30 cm long; blade 2–3 m long; pinnae 55–70 per side, neatly penduolous from the base, longest ones on the mid portion 50–60 cm long. Inflorescence with 15–20 cm long peduncle; rachillae 35–50, almost equal in length, 40–60 cm long. Fruits globose, 1–1.2 cm diam., black at maturity. (Palms of Thailand)
Cultivation and Propagation: Oncosperma tigillarium is an excellent fast growing palm easy to recognize from a distance and adapt to tropical and subtropical climates in humid regions, specially along with rainforests. It is considered one of the most ornamental palm for the elegance of the foliage, but is little cultivated, both for the presence of the spines, and for its exigencies of cultivation (particularly it needs sunny, and very moist position).
Soil requirements: It has a fibrous root system and benefits from deep organic, fertile, acidic soils, but thrives on wide range of tropical soils, like coastal marine alluvial clays, soils of volcanic origin, acid sands and other coastal alluviums and even in seasonally flooded areas and swamps. Extremely sandy or stony soils should be avoided.
Watering: It requires elevated moisture, can tolerate temporary flooding or a fluctuating water table, as might be found along rivers.
Light: It needs full sun exposures, but tolerates some shade especially when young. If home-grown, give some sun as with most tropical palms.
Fertilization: Need a perfect fertilizer diet including all micro nutrients and trace elements.
Hardiness: It is not known to exhibit any cold tolerance and is suited for equatorial, tropical or subtropical climate and seedling growth arrested below 15°C. Mean maximum temperature of 30-32°C and mean minimum of 21-24°C (USDA Zones 11-12), it will be injured and may be killed by freezing temperatures and may show chilling injury symptoms of leaflet necrosis at temperatures as high as 5 degrees C.
Wind hardiness: It is tolerant of wind including bad storms, but will grow better with slow wind. Garden uses: It is an xcellent landscaping palm if you can water it a lot, a single palm would make an attractive specimen in parks and large gardens and, given it's size and fast growth, a clump of Oncosperma tigillarium would really be a sight to behold. Cold Hardiness Zone: 10b (llifle.com)
Plants succeed at low elevations in moist tropical climates, with or without a dry period. They grow best in areas where the mean annual temperature falls within the range 20 - 30°c, but can tolerate 10 - 35°c. They prefer a mean annual rainfall in the range 1,500 - 3,000 mm, tolerating 1,000 - 3,500 mm. They can tolerate a dry season, but even then the driest month should have 25 mm or more rain. Plants grow well in full sun, even when small, but can also succeed in light shade. Succeeds in most soils. Prefers a pH in the range 6 - 6.5, but tolerates 5.5 - 7.
Comments and Curiosities
Etymology: Oncosperma ("Nibung") is derived from the Greek ογκος (onkos), a mass, heap, and σπερμα (sperma), a seed – swollen seed; tigillium is from the Latin tigillum, diminutive of tignum, a tree trunk – and means ‘of small trunks’.
Ecology: Seeds are dispersed by bats, large birds and monkeys. The latter also like to eat the flowers. (llifle.com)
Food use: The asparagus like pulp (palm cabbage) in the centre of the crown is very appreciated and known as the “Millionaires Salad” it is a very expensive vegetable because a whole trunk must be cut down to obtain a limited amount of edible flesh. The palm is not killed by this because it is a clump forming palm and other trunks may grow from it's base, The cabbage can be eaten, raw or cooked. (llifle.com)
The apical bud can be eaten raw in salads or cooked as a vegetable. Delicately white with a very sweet, nutty flavour. Removing the bud effectively kills the trunk since it is unable to produce side branches. However, since this is a clump-forming species, it is possible to eat some buds from a clump without killing the clump. The flowers are used to flavour rice. Fruit - occasionally eaten. They are used to make preserves and also as a substitute for betel (Areca catechu).
Other uses: Source of construction materials. Once stripped of its thorns the trunk furnish an extremely hard, durable, elastic, rot resistant and salt water resistant wood which is used for purposes like piling, rafters, flooring, tools, weapons, furniture, fish traps, and in traditional kelong construction. Flowers are used to flavour rice, fruits to make preserves and as substitute for betel. The leaves are used for basketry, roofing and the contain fibres. Propagation: The fresh seeds germinate easily. If not properly treated, the seed does not have long shelf life. very moist position. (llifle.com)
The leaves are a source of fibre. They are used for making baskets and for thatching. The spines on the stem are used for blow-darts and as heads of javelins for spearing fish. Wood - the outer part of the trunk is stronger and more durable than most other palms. Especially durable in water. It is used for house construction, especially for the foundation piles of elevated houses, and is also split into planks for flooring, boat building etc. The hard, elastic and durable outer zone of the stem is used for purposes like construction, piling, rafters and flooring, tools and weapons and furniture
Conservation: Recently this palm tree has become threatened in many places, especially near the coast, due to utilization for "bagang" poles. Stems of nibung are also used as a major building component, the leaf sheaths in basket making and the heart or cabbage is eaten raw or cooked in a coconut sauce (Dransfield 1976, House 1983). Seeman (1856) quotes Low as stating it to be "the most esteemed of all the excellent vegetables of Borneo, with a very sweet nutty flavor." According to local fishermen, it currently sells in Lampung for about 20,000 rupiahs per stem. Despite the economic value of the plant, little is known about the ecology and distribution of this palm species.
Oncosperma tigillarium, is a tall (to 25 m) densely clumping palm, with up to 50 stems, all of which are covered with long black spines. It has fine pinnate leaves, with attractive drooping leaflets. It is native to Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines, growing in lowland swampy forest, and among mangroves. This palm has extremely hard, rot-resistant wood, which is used in fish traps in Borneo. Once stripped of its thorns, it is used as posts for fishing stakes and in kelong construction. The inflorescences are a beautiful red colour, and globe fruits are produced. It is now commonly seen over most of southern Asia, growing in huge stands, a great landscape plant for large gardens and parks, provided one doesn’t get too close! There are some fully grown specimens in the Singapore Botanical Gardens, flanking the orchidarium. They tower impressively over other plants growing nearby. I am told that there is at least one clump in the Townsville Palmetum. (T. Penroumardjo, E. Mmuenro, S. Riswan, and R.J. Whittaker)
Nibong (Oncosperma tigillarium) - This palm occurs in clusters, with several stems, usually in landward margins of mangroves (especially in the transition area with freshwater swamps) or in coastal forests. The stem is covered with spines. The flowers occur in branching bunches, while the fruits are round, turning from dark green to dark purple with maturity. This species may be confused with the similarly looking Mountain Nibong (Oncosperma horridum), which may occur in coastal forests as well, but the latter has less droopy leaflets, fewer but wider stems. The wood is hard and resistant to salt water and insect, making it useful for coastal construction, such as the poles for supporting stilt houses or kelongs, or split into strips for the flooring. It has been planted as an ornamental plant in some of our coastal parks. (Ron Yeo, Singapore.)
"We saw this species all over Asia where it grows in huge stands up to 80' tall. It is a clustering pinnate species with droopy leaves and intensely spiny trunks. Great landscape plant for large gardens and parks, but dont get too close. Even though quite tropical in its needs (particulary its need for water), it has successfully regrown from being frozen to the ground in Florida. Still, no luck in southern California (not warm or wet enough). This is a great graceful palm that is easy to recognize from a distance." (Geoff Stein)
Always by the coast, growing in brackish water coastal swamps, creek banks or on sandy or rocky seashores. It can be found behind the mangroves, on elevated spots in areas of fresh water swamps above the highest flood mark.
ENGLISH: Nibong palm, Nibung palm, Wild palm, Nibung CHINESE (中文): Ni bang ye zi INDONESIAN (Bahasa Indonesia): Nibung JAPANESE (日本語): Nipon yashi KAPAMPAGAN (Kapampangan): Anibong LITHUANIAN (Lietuvių): Laiboji margapalmė MALAY (بهاس ملاي /Bahasa Melayu ): Nibung, Pokok Nibung THAI (ภาษาไทย): หลาวชะโอนทุ่ง, Lao cha-on (หลาวชะโอน), Cha-on (ชะโอน), Lao cha-on thung (หลาวชะโอนทุ่ง) (Peninsular); Ni-bong (นิบง) (Malay-Pattani)
Garden Islands of the Great East by DF with the caption: "It would tax anybody's ingenuity to make a botanical specimen of this gigantic Oncosperma palm which Hugo brought in from the forest back of Gorontalo, Celebes". Cheng Ho Expedition 1939-1940, Hugo Curran posing with Oncosperma palm parts. Photo by David Fairchild.
Garden Islands of the Great East by DF with the caption: "It would tax anybody's ingenuity to make a botanical specimen of this gigantic Oncosperma palm which Hugo brought in from the forest back of Gorontalo, Celebes". Cheng Ho Expedition 1939-1940, Oncosperma species display. Photo by Edward Beckwith.
- Glossary of Palm Terms
- MODERN BOTANICAL LATIN
- "Just To Be Clear"
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).
T. Penroumardjo, E. Mmuenro, S. Riswan, and R.J. Whittaker. Principes, 36 (1), 1992, pp. 7-17
Many Special Thanks to Ed Vaile for his long hours of tireless editing and numerous contributions.