Login Logout
Jump to: navigation, search

Borassus flabellifer


Borassus flabellifer, commonly known as doub palm, palmyra palm, tala palm, toddy palm, wine palm, or ice apple<ref name=GRIN>Template:GRIN</ref><ref name="Edible Medicinal">Template:Cite book</ref> is native to the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia, including Nepal, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Laos, Burma, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines.<ref>Philippine Medicinal Plants, "Palmira"</ref> It is reportedly naturalized in Pakistan, Socotra, and parts of China.<ref>Kew World Checklist of Selected Plant Families, Borassus flabellifer</ref><ref>Template:Cite journal</ref>


Borassus flabellifer is a robust tree and can reach a height of Template:Convert. The trunk is grey, robust and ringed with leaf scars; old leaves remain attached to the trunk for several years before falling cleanly. The leaves are fan-shaped and Template:Convert long, with robust black teeth on the petiole margins. Like all Borassus species, B. flabellifer is dioecious with male and female flowers on separate plants. The male flowers are less than 1 cm long and form semi-circular clusters, which are hidden beneath scale-like bracts within the catkin-like inflorescences. In contrast, the female flowers are golfball-sized and solitary, sitting upon the surface of the inflorescence axis. After pollination, these blooms develop into fleshy fruits 15–25 cm wide, each containing 1-3 seeds. The fruits are black to brown with sweet, fibrous pulp and each seed is enclosed within a woody endocarp. Young palmyra seedlings grow slowly, producing only a few leaves each year (establishment phase), but at an as yet undetermined time, they grow rapidly, producing a substantial stem.<ref>Template:Cite journal</ref>




Fruits of Borassus flabellifer, Vietnam.
Nungu drink, Tamil Nadu, India.
Edible jelly seeds of palmyra palm, Guntur, India

The fruit measures Template:Convert to Template:Convert in diameter, has a black husk, and is borne in clusters. The top portion of the fruit must be cut off to reveal the sweet jelly seed sockets, translucent pale-white, similar to that of the lychee but with a milder flavor and no pit. The sweet jelly seed sockets occur in combinations of two, three or four seeds inside the fruit. The jelly part of the fruit is covered with a thin, yellowish-brown skin. These are known to contain watery fluid inside the fleshy white body. These seed sockets have been the inspiration behind certain Sandeshes called Jalbhora (জলভরা) found in Bengal.The soft orange-yellow mesocarp pulp of the ripe fruit is sugary, dense and edible, rich in vitamin A and C. BORASSUS also contains bitter compound called flabelliferrins, which are steroidal saponins.

The conventional way this fruit is eaten is when the outer casing is still unripe while the seeds are eaten as the fruit. But if the entire fruit is left to ripen, the fibrous outer layer of the palm fruits can also be eaten raw, boiled, or roasted. When this happens, the fruit takes a purple-blackish hue and tastes similar to coconut flesh. The skin is also eaten as part of the fruit similar to how mango skins are often consumed along with the fruit. Bengali People have perfected the art of making various sweet dishes with the yellowish viscous fluid substance obtained from a ripe palm fruit. These include mustard oil-fried (alternately sunflower oil-fried) Taal-er bora (তালের বড়া) "palmyra vadas" or mixed with thickened milk to prepare Taal-kheer (তাল ক্ষীর).


Obtaining the sap traditionally involves tapping the top shoots and collecting the dripping juice in hanging earthen pots. The juice collected in evening or after fermentation becomes sour, and is called Tadi (ताडी) in Marathi.

A sugary sap called toddy, can be obtained from the young inflorescence, either male or female. Toddy is fermented to make a beverage called arrack, or it is concentrated to a crude sugar called jaggery or Taal Patali (তাল পাটালী) in Bengali and Pana Vellam or Karuppukatti (கருப்புகட்டி or கருபட்டி) in Tamil. It is called Gula Jawa (Javanese sugar) in Indonesia, and is widely used in Javanese cuisine.



In the Indian states of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Bihar, and in Jaffna, Sri Lanka, the seeds are planted and made to germinate and the fleshy stems (below the surface) are boiled or roasted and eaten. It is very fibrous and nutritious. It is known as Thegalu (తేగలు) or Gaygulu (గేగులు) or Gengulu (గెంగులు) (especially in Telangana) in Telugu, as Panai Kizhangu or Panangkizhangu (பனங்கிழங்கு) in Tamil, and as htabin myiq (ထန်းပင်မြစ်) in Myanmar.

The germinated seed's hard shell is also cut open to take out the crunchy kernel, which tastes like a sweeter water chestnut. It is called Buragunju (బురగుంజు) in Telugu and "thavanai" in Tamil.

The white kernel of the ripe palm fruit after being left for a few months is used as an offering in Lakshmi Puja in various parts of Bengal and is also eaten raw.


Female tree, showing foliage crown with fruit
Male tree with flower
Sugar palm as seen in Mumbai, India

The Borassus flabellifer leaves are used for thatching, mats, baskets, fans, hats, umbrellas, and as writing material.

All the literature of the old Tamil was written in preserved Palm leaves also known as Palm-leaf manuscript. In Tamil Yaedu or Olai chuvadi. Most of the ancient literature in Telugu are written on palm leaves (Tala patra grandhas).

In Indonesia the leaves were used in the ancient culture as paper, known as "lontar". Leaves of suitable size, shape, texture, and maturity were chosen and then seasoned by boiling in salt water with turmeric powder, as a preservative. The leaves were then dried. When they were dry enough, the face of the leaf was polished with pumice, cut into the proper size, and a hole made in one corner. Each leaf made four pages. The writing was done with a stylus and had a very cursive and interconnected style.

The stem of the leaves has thorny edges (called "karukku" in Tamil).

The skin of the stem can be peeled off and be used as rope and also used to weave into cots (நார்க்கட்டில் in Tamil). In some part of Tamil Nadu, a variety of rice flour cake (called "Kolukattai") is prepared using the leaf.

In the eastern part of India, the leaves are used to make hand fans.


The stalks are used to make fences and also produce a strong, wiry fiber suitable for cordage and brushes. The black timber is hard, heavy, and durable and is highly valued for construction.


When the crown of the tree is removed, the segment from which the leaves grow out is an edible cake. This is called 'pananchoru (பனஞ்சோறு) in Tamil or thati adda (తాటి అడ్డ/తాటి మట్ట) in Telugu or .


Borassus flabellifer has a growth pattern, very large size, and clean habits that make it an attractive ornamental tree, cultivated for planting in gardens and parks as landscape palm species.

Cultural symbolism

Borassus flabellifer in Cambodia, 1965.
  • The palmyra tree is the official tree of Tamil Nadu. Highly respected in Tamil culture, it is called "karpaha Veruksham" ("celestial tree") because all its parts have a use. Panaiveriyamman, named after panai, the Tamil name for the Palmyra palm, is an ancient tree deity related to fertility linked to this palm. This deity is also known as Taalavaasini, a name that further relates her to all types of palms.<ref>Heinrich Zimmer, Myths and Symbols in Indian Art and Civilization. (1946)</ref>
  • The Asian palmyra palm is a symbol of Cambodia where it is a very common palm, found all over the country. It also grows near the Angkor Wat temple.<ref>The Cambodian palm tree</ref>
  • In Indonesia the Palmyra tree is the symbol of South Sulawesi province.
  • This plant has captured the imagination of Bengalis, especially in the words of Rabindranth Tagore whose nursery rhyme 'Taal Gaach ek Paye daariye' (তাল গাছ এক পায়ে দাড়িয়ে.., literally Tall tree standing on a single leg ... ) in Sahaj Path (সহজ পাঠ) is a staple reading material in most schools in West Bengal & Bangladesh.
  • In the Hindu epic Mahabharata, a palmyra tree is the chariot-banner of Bheeshma

See also

Template:Commons category



External links

Template:Symbols of Cambodia Template:Taxonbar