Oncosperma horridum

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Oncosperma (ahnk-oh-SPEHRM-ah)
horridum (hohr-REED-uhm)
Oncosperma horridum stem.jpg
Singapore. Photo by Paul Craft.
Scientific Classification
Genus: Oncosperma (ahnk-oh-SPEHRM-ah)
horridum (hohr-REED-uhm)
None set.
Native Continent
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Habit: Clustering & solitary
Leaf type: Pinnate
Survivability index
Common names
Mountain Nibung Palm. Philippines: anibong-gubat, tanaian. Indonesia: bayas, ari ribbuk, pinang bayeh. Malaysia: bayas, debung, nyivung. Thailand: krarian khao, lao cha on khao, thu rian.

Habitat and Distribution

Borneo, Malaya, Philippines, Sulawesi, Sumatara, and Thailand. The Mountain Nibong
Taman Sebaya, Selangor, Malaysia. Photo by Dr. Ahmad Fuad Morad.
Palm is found from lowland rainforests, and as high as up to 1,000 m.


The stem is slender and armed with sharp spines on the trunk and leaf stalks (and thus the specific name of “horridum”). The leaflets are drooping, giving the crown a feathery appearance.

Mountain nibong palm. Indigenous to Indo-China and Malesia ecozone and found growing wild in lowland forests. Stem reaching 20 m; all plant parts spiny; pinnate leaf, leaflets horizontal or nearly so, 2-3 m long. leaflets lanceolate, petiole 1-2 m with short spathe. Clustering occasionally solitary, with very dense crowns. All parts covered with massive, mostly downward directed black spines. Inflorescences large, yellow below the leaves. Flowers monoecious, spirally arranged. Fruit ovate, green changing brown, then ripening black, 1.5 to 2 cm across, waxy. Found in inland nature reserves. It has fairly straight upright stems. The only other similar species is the Nibong, Oncosperma tigillarium. However it's found near water bodies, almost always clustering, having thinner stems and very droopy leaflets. (eol.org) Editing by edric.


Cold Hardiness Zone: 10b

Comments and Curiosities

Etymology: The specific epithet from the Latin, meaning; Prickly.

"The local host plant, Oncosperma horridum, is a tall clustering palm with pinnate leaves, and with its stem covered in black and downward pointing spines. This palm can be found growing in the Central Catchment Reserve, in relative abundance at certain localities. The caterpillars of the Yellow Vein Lancer feed on leaves of this plant, and live in shelters made by joining edges of leaf fragments together with silk threads. The eggs are laid singly on the upperside of a leaflet of the host plant." (Horace Tan, Butterflies of Singapore)

Diagnostic: Oncosperma horridum is a solitary or clustering palm found in inland nature reserves. It has straight upright stems growing over 20 m tall and is covered with long, downward pointing prickles.

This palm is a close relative of the famed nibong palm (Oncosperma tigillarium) of the mangrove. Both species have seawater-resistant stems and are often used in the construction of kelongs (wooden structure on silts in the sea for rearing or catching of fish).

The only other similar species is the Nibong, Oncosperma tigillarium. However this congenor is found near water bodies, always clustering, have thinner stems and very droopy leaflets.

Interesting Facts: The Mountain Nibong Palm is found from lowland rainforests to up to 1,000 m (Henderson, 2009).

A slender, tall, clustering palm native to rainforests on the Malay Peninsula, Sumatra, Borneo and the Philippines, to 700 m (2300 ft.). In contrast to the more widely cultivated O. tigillarum it has fewer, and thicker trunks, and larger leaves on which the leaflets are held flat on one plane, rather than drooping as in O. tigillarum. (RPS.com)

External Links


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.

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