Salacca wallichiana

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Salacca (SAH-lahk-kah)
3018199232 d0de5f58fb o.jpg
Photo by Ernest McGray Jr.
Scientific Classification
Genus: Salacca (SAH-lahk-kah)
Zalacca rumphii
Native Continent
Habit: Clustering (soboliferous)
Leaf type: Pinnate
Survivability index
Common names
(Burmese) : yengam, (Filipino) : sala, (Malay) : salak kumbar, (Thai) : sala (for the cultivated forms)Edible-fruited Salak Palm. RAKUM PALM - Thailand & Malaya.

Habitat and Distribution

Salacca wallichiana is found in Malaya, Myanmar, Sumatera, Thailand, and Vietnam.
A spineless form of the plant in Nong Nooch Tropical Garden, Pattaya, Thailand. Photo by Dr. Scott Zona.
S. wallichiana is at home in the hot lowlands.

Biophysical limits

Annual rainfall: 2500-3000 mm. Soil types: The palm thrives in soils ranging from sandy loam to heavy clay. In the main rakum production centre, the annual rainfall is 2500-3000 mm with 5-6 dry months. Dry weather is needed for good fruit set; spadices emerging in the rainy season tend to rot and the viability of the pollen is poor. The temperature range required is 22-32 deg. C; lower temperatures reduce flowering. On low-lying wetlands it grows better than most fruit trees. It can stand drought very well, but in the dry season irrigation is needed for a good yield. In its natural habitat and in mixed orchards rakum is commonly found under shade. In commercial orchards the palms can be grown successfully without shade, provided they are irrigated. The origin of the rakum palm is not clear, but it is found in the lowlands of southern Burma, south of 19 deg. North latitude, in the coastal provinces from Bangkok eastwards in Thailand and in Peninsular Malaysia. Both wild (in the forest) and cultivated the palm is most abundantly found in the hot and humid areas of Thailand which lie between 10-13 deg. North latitudes. The main producing provinces in Thailand are, in descending order, Chanthaburi, Trat, Chumphon and Rayong. (


Rakum palm is an clustering (soboliferous) palm with very spiny leaves that are 3 - 7 metres long. A creeping and tillering palm that grows in clumps (caespitose), the creeping, unbranched stems can reach 3 - 4 metres long in plants over 100 years old with an erect terminal leaf-bearing part 1 metre tall and with many adventitious roots, most abundant towards the tip. Roots can reach a length of 2 metres but do not extend to a great depth. The plants are valued for their edible fruit, mainly in Thailand, and are also harvested as a source of construction materials. Superior fruit-bearing forms have been developed and these are often cultivated in gardens and plantations. (

A dioecious, creeping and tillering palm, growing in clumps with very spiny leaves. In palms over 100 years old, the creeping stem can reach 3-4 m, with an erect terminal leaf-bearing part 1 m tall and with many adventitious roots, most abundant towards the tip. Roots can reach a length of 2 m but do not extend to a great depth. Leaves 3-7 m long, pinnate; spines flat, linear-triangular, almost perpendicular to the leaf-sheaths, some pointing downwards; leaflets 60-75 cm x 6-8 cm. Male inflorescences about 1 m long, branching into many reddish spadices; flowers with 3 sepals, 3 petals and 5 stamens; anthers with functional yellowish pollen; female inflorescences 1-2 m long, with 3-8 reddish spadices, each with staminate and hermaphrodite flowers in 1:1 ratio, both without functional pollen; staminate flowers with a reddish, tubular corolla and 5 staminodes borne on the corolla throat; hermaphrodite flowers with 3 pink sepals, fused at the base, ovary trilocular, hairy, with a short, trifid dark red stigma, staminodes 5-6, borne on the corolla throat. Fruit a drupe, occurring in dense heads, obovoid, 2.5 cm long, the skin (epicarp) consisting of orange-brown scales with reflexed brittle points; endocarp not differentiated. Seeds 1-3, covered with a fleshy sarcotesta. Selection in the rakum palms has given rise to the sala group of cultivars of superior quality. Among them are 'Sala Mor', 'Sala Sane', 'Sala Noenwong' and the spineless 'Sakum'. 'Sala Mor' and 'Sala Sane' originated from rakum grown near Bangkok. The rapid expansion of the city in the late 1970s threatened these cultivars with extinction. Some 2000 palms were moved to Phetchabun province, 300 km north of Bangkok. 'Sala Noenwong' originated in Chanthaburi province from a seedling of 'Sala Mor' about 120 years ago. 'Sakum' has its origin somewhere in Chanthaburi or Trat provinces. The sala cultivars do not grow as large as the rakum types, e.g. leaves of 'Sala Noenwong' reach only 3 m. This cultivar is further characterized by abundant suckering, long terminal leaflets and the light-brown colour of the fruit, which has an obtuse tip. 'Sala Mor' has leaves of about 4 m length with short terminal leaflets and has greyish-orange fruit with a beaked tip. The spineless 'Sakum' has leaves nearly as long (5 m) as the rakum types and the fruit quality is not much better: there is only a little flesh covering the large stones. Both 'Sakum' and rakum fruits are greyish-orange with a short, pointed tip. ( Editing by edric.


Comments and Curiosities

External Links


Phonetic spelling of Latin names by edric.

Special thanks to Geoff Stein, (Palmbob) for his hundreds of photos.

Special thanks to, 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.

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