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Tropical Seashores  : Mangrove

Nypa fruticans Nipa Palm Nipah Arecaceae

 

 Nypa-fruticans, Nipa Palm, Nipah

 

Nypa fruticans

 Nypa-fruticans, Nipa Palm, Nipah

The Nipah Palm is the among the few palms that grow well in mangroves. It grows in soft mud, usually where the water is calmer, but where there is regular inflow of freshwater and nutritious silt. They can be found inland, as far as the tide can deposit the Palm's floating seeds. It can tolerate infrequent inundation, so long as the soil does not dry out for too long.
It is the mangrove plant with the oldest known fossil, with pollen dated 70 million years old. Compared to the Coconut Palm, the Nipah Palm appears to lack a trunk, with its leaves growing straight out of the ground. In fact, its trunk is horizontal and lies underground. The trunk branches and each branch ends with a bunch of fronds.
The base of the frond is air-filled to help it stay upright. This habit of growing from underground stems results in almost pure stands of Nipah Palm.
The fruits form into a large ball about the size and shape of a soccer-ball, rising from the mud on a stick. When it ripens, the ball breaks away and breaks up into individual fruits. These float away and may even germinate as they float.
Uses as food: Before the inflorescence blooms, it is tapped to collect a sweet sap. Young Nipah Palm shoots can be eaten. The petals of the flower can be brewed to make an aromatic tea.
The immature fruits are white translucent and hard jelly-like. Called attap chee, they are a common ingredient in local desserts.
In the Indonesian islands of Roti and Savu, the sap tapped from the palm is fed to pigs instead, allowing the pigs to fatten during the dry season when other fodder is scarce. The pigs are also fed the leftovers after sugar preparation. In this way, the Nipah Palm results in protein for the community.
Other uses: Dried fronds are used as thatching and called attap in Malay and nipa in the Philippines. They are also woven into mats, baskets and other household items. Young leaves are used to roll cigarettes.

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