Friday, 13 May 2011

Nypa fruticans - Nipah

Nypa fruticans, known ask the nipah palm, or attap palm.  It is the only palm species considered a mangrove in the Mangrove Biome.  N. fruticans is a monotypic taxon, meaning that it’s a lone biological type within the genus.

N. fruticans grows in soft mud of southern Asian and northern Australia costal tropical.  It is an endangered species in Singapore.

It has a horizontal trunk that grows beneath the ground, only the leaves and flower stalk grow upwards above the surface.   The leave frond can reach up to 10 meter in height.  The flowers are a globular inflorescence of female flowers at the tip, with yellow-to-red male flowers on the lower branches.    The fruit is a drupe, fibrous, airy, in a cluster.  Ripe fruitlets separated from the bunches, and floated away on the tide.

Nypa fruticans is a very useful plant.
The piths ( umbut ) are harvested, consumed as vegetables.  The long, feathery frond are used as roofing material ( daun attap ), and wall panel.
The leaflets are used in basketry.  Young leaflets are used to wrap tobacco for smoking.

The flower cluster can be tapped before blooming, to yield a sweet edible sap ( nira nipah ), collected to produce alcoholic drink, vinegar, and palm sugar ( gula apong )

Seeds of young fruits ( attap-zi ) are sweet, translucent, gelatinous, used as a dessert ingredient ( air batu campur ) or fruit cocktail.
Seeds of older fruit are made into powder.

Nypa sap produces 6,480-15,600 liters of ethanol per hectare per year, compare to sugarcane 5,000-8,000 liter/ha/year, and corn just only 2,000 liter/ha/year.
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