Salacca zalacca

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Salacca (SAH-lahk-kah)
zalacca (ZAH-lahk-ah)
Karangasem, Bali, Indonesia. Photo by Dr. John Dransfield, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew/Palmweb.
Scientific Classification
Genus: Salacca (SAH-lahk-kah)
zalacca (ZAH-lahk-ah)
Salacca edulis
Native Continent
Habit: Clustering (soboliferous) & acaulescent.
Leaf type: Pinnate
Survivability index
Common names
(Burmese): yingan, (Filipino): snake fruit, (Malay): salak, (Thai): sala.

Habitat and Distribution

Salacca zalacca is found in Borneo, Java, Lesser Sunda Is., Malaya, Maluku, Sulawesi,
Viqueque, a city in the south-east of East Timor. Photo by Josh Trindade.
and Sumatera. Lowland, swampy Rain Forest.

Biophysical limits

Altitude: Below 500 m, Average annual rainfall: 1700-3100 mm. Soil types: Soil types in production centres include podzolic soils and regosol. Salak thrives under humid tropical lowland conditions. Because of its superficial root system, the palm requires a high water table, rain or irrigation during most of the year, but it does not stand flooding. Fruit yield and quality in Java diminish above 500 m altitude. Salak is usually grown under shade. Salak grows wild in south-western Java and southern Sumatra, but its precise place of origin is not known. It is cultivated in Thailand, throughout Malaysia and Indonesia as far as the Moluccas, and has been introduced into New Guinea, the Philippines, Queensland (Australia), Ponape Island (Caroline Archipelago) and reportedly occurs on the Fiji Islands. (


A relatively small, usually dioecious, very spiny, creeping and tillering palm, growing in compact clumps formed by successive branching at the base. Roots not extending to great depth. Stem a mostly subterranean stolon with only its terminal leafbearing part more upright, reaching a length of several metres and 10-15 cm in diameter, often branching; new roots growing out of the stem immediately under the crown of leaves; internodes very congested, leaf traces inserted almost horizontally. Leaves pinnate, 3-7 m long; leaf-sheaths, petioles and leaflets armed with numerous, long, thin, grey to blackish spines; leaflets 20-70 cm x 2-7.5 cm. Inflorescence an axillary compound spadix, stalked, at first enclosed by spathes; male inflorescence 50-100 cm long, consisting of 4-12 spadices, each 7-15 cm x 0.7-2 cm, female one 20-30 cm long, composed of 1-3 spadices, 7-10 cm long. Flowers in pairs in axils of scales; staminate flowers with reddish, tubular corolla and 6 stamens borne on the corolla throat and a minute pistillode; pistillate ones with tubular corolla, yellow-green outside and dark red inside, a trilocular ovary with short trifid, red style and 6 staminodes borne on the corolla throat. Fruit a globose to ellipsoid drupe, 15-40 per spadix, ca. 5-7 cm x 5 cm, tapering towards base and rounded at top; epicarp (skin) comprised of numerous yellow to brown, united, imbricate scales, each scale ending in a fragile prickle. Seeds usually 3 per fruit, with 2-8 mm thick, fleshy, cream-coloured sarcotesta and a smooth, stony inner part, 23-29 mm x 15-27 mm, which is blackish-brown and trigonous with 2 flat surfaces and a curved one; endosperm homogeneous and white. The salak palm grown in northern Sumatra is ascribed to a distinct species, S. sumatrana Becc. The species S. zalacca, which is cultivated elsewhere in Indonesia, is subdivided into two botanic varieties, var. zalacca from Java and var. amboinensis (Becc.) Mogea from Bali and Ambon. In Indonesia at least 20 intraspecific taxa are distinguished according to place of origin and cultivation, e.g. 'Condet', 'Pondoh', 'Bali', 'Suwaru'; these may obtain cultivar status as vegetative propagation gains importance. 'Bali' is monoecious; the inflorescences bear both hermaphrodite and staminate flowers; the latter produce functional pollen. ( Editing by edric.


Comments and Curiosities

This is a tillering palm, it exhibits saxophone style root growth (it has a heel), keep top third of heel above soil elevation!

Functional uses

Food: Salak palm is cultivated for its fruits, the bulk of which are consumed fresh when fully ripe. In Indonesia the fruits are also candied ('manisan salak'), pickled ('asinan salak') and fresh unripe ones may be used in 'rujak', a spicy salad of unripe fruit. Mature fruits may be canned. The seed kernels of the young fruits of the Javanese 'Pondoh' form are edible. Other products: The bark of the petioles may be used for matting. The leaflets are used for thatching. (


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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