Nypa fruticans, known as the attap palm (Singapore), nipa palm
(Philippines), and mangrove palm or buah atap (Indonesia), buah
nipah (Malaysia), dừa nước (Vietnam), Ging Pol in Sinhala in Sri
Lanka and gol pata (Bangladesh), dani (Burma). It is the only palm
considered a mangrove in the Mangroves Biome. This species is a
monotypic taxon, the only one in the genus Nypa, grows in southern
Asia and northern Australia within the Indomalaya ecozone.
Nypa fruticans, Nipa palms, grow in soft mud and slow moving
tidal and river waters that bring in nutrients. The palm can be
found as far inland as the tide can deposit the floating nuts. It is
common on coasts and rivers flowing into the Indian and Pacific
Oceans, from Bangladesh to the Pacific Islands. The plant will
survive occasional short term drying of its environment.
The trunk or stem of the Nipa palm is under the mud. Only the leaves
Nypa fruticans, the Nipa palm, has a horizontal trunk that grows
beneath the ground 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.
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, Nipah 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.
Food and beverages
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(TUAK). Tuba is also stored in Tapayan (balloon
vases) for several weeks to make 'CUKA NIPAH' in the Malaysia,
commonly known as Sukang Paombong (pure vinegar made from the
province of Paombong, Bulacan). Young shoots are also edible and the
flower petals can be infused to make an aromatic tisane. Attap chee
(simplified 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.
Nipah has a very high sugar-rich sap yield (NIRA). Fermented into
Etanol/Butanol the palm's large amount of sap may allow for the
production of 6,480-15,600 liters (per year) of Ethanol/Butanol per
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
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.