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Borassus flabellifer - L.

Common Name Palmyra Palm
Family Arecaceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards Plant has spines or sharp edges; use extreme caution when handling
Habitats Hot, dry, monsoonal areas in both forested and open country, often forming large stands[ 297 ].
Range E. Asia - India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, New Guinea.
Edibility Rating    (4 of 5)
Other Uses    (3 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care
Tender Well drained soil Moist Soil Full sun
Borassus flabellifer Palmyra Palm


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Borassus flabellifer Palmyra Palm
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Summary

Palmyra Palm, Borassus flaballifer, is a very tall, dioecious, single-stemmed evergreen palm tree up to 30 m high. The crown is composed of approximately 60 large, fan-shaped leaves. It is found in East Asia where it is highly valued for its various uses. The mature fruits are consumed raw or cooked while the immature ones are pickled. The inflorescence produces a sugar-rich sap that can be drunk or made into a sweet syrup or solid palm sugar (jaggery). The seed, inflorescence, and apical bud are edible as well. Sprouted seedlings of Palmyra palm can also be eaten raw, cooked, or sun-dried for later consumption. Salt can be made from the leaves. Further, Palmyra palm has many traditional medicinal uses. One of which is its anthelmintic and diuretic young roots. Heartburn and enlarged spleen and liver can be treated using the ash of the flower. Sap from the flower stalk is tonic, diuretic, stimulant, laxative, amoebicide, and anti-phlegmatic among others. The fruits, leaves, and base of petioles are sources of different fibres. The leaves are used in thatching and as fuel. The wood is used as construction material and fuel and it can be made into charcoal. Other Names: Toddy Palm, Sugar Palm


Physical Characteristics

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Borassus flabellifer is an evergreen Tree growing to 20 m (65ft) by 6 m (19ft) at a medium rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 10. The flowers are pollinated by Bees. The plant is not self-fertile.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and can grow in nutritionally poor soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in very alkaline soils.
It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map

Synonyms

Borassus flabelliformis L.

Habitats

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Flowers  Fruit  Leaves  Sap  Seed  Stem
Edible Uses:

Fruit - raw or cooked[ 297 , 301 ]. The immature fruits are pickled[ 301 ]. The tender flesh of young fruits is cooked in curry[ 303 ]. The ripe fruit has a yellow edible pulp with a distinctive aroma[ 303 ]. The mature fruit is soaked in water, after which the wiry fibers are extracted, the yellow pulp mixed with rice starch, this is then folded inside a banana leaf and later steam-cooked[ 404 ]. The fruit is a globose to subglobose drupe, 15-20 cm in diameter, produced in large clusters on the tree[ 303 , 335 ]. A sugar-rich sap is obtained from the inflorescence[ 297 ]. It is obtained by first tying the developing inflorescence together to prevent it opening, then beating it daily for several days with a wooden mallet. After a few days, a slice is cut daily from the end of the inflorescence and, almost a week later, the sap begins to flow[ 297 ]. This can continue for several months so long as a fresh slice is removed each day[ 297 ]. Up to 20 litres of sap can be obtained each day from larger trees[ 297 ]. The juice can be drunk, or concentrated by evaporation to form a sweet syrup or a solid palm sugar known as jaggery[ 297 ]. The soft upper 10 metres of the trunk contains some starch, which may be harvested in times of food scarcity[ 303 ]. Immature, jelly-like seeds[ 301 ]. The young solid or gelatinous endosperm of the seeds is eaten fresh or in syrup[ 303 ]. Sprouted seedlings - peeled and eaten raw or cooked[ 301 , 303 ]. They can be sun-dried for later use[ 301 ]. They may be slightly toxic, but are considered a delicacy in some areas[ 303 ]. A salt is made from the leaves[ 46 , 301 ]. Apical bud[ 301 , 303 ]. Eating this bud effectively kills the plant since it is unable to produce side branches[ K ]. Inflorescence - cooked. Added to soups and curries[ 301 ].

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.


Innumerable traditional medicinal uses are known for all parts of the toddy palm[ 303 ]. The young plant is said to relieve biliousness, dysentery and gonorrhea[ 404 ]. Young roots are anthelmintic and diuretic[ 404 ]. A decoction is given in certain respiratory diseases. Dried roots can also be smoked to heal nasal complaints[ 404 ]. The ash of the flower is taken to relieve heartburn and enlarged spleen and liver[ 404 ]. The bark decoction, with salt, is used as a mouth wash[ 404 ]. A charcoal made of the bark serves as a dentifrice[ 404 ]. Sap from the flower stalk is prized as a tonic, diuretic, stimulant, laxative and anti phlegmatic and amoebicide[ 404 ]. Sugar made from this sap is said to counteract poisoning and it is prescribed in the treatment of liver disorders[ 404 ]. When candied, it is a remedy for coughs and various pulmonary complaints[ 404 ]. Fresh toddy, heated to promote fermentation, is bandaged onto all kinds of ulcers[ 404 ]. The apical bud, leaf petioles, and dried male flower spikes all have diuretic activity[ 404 ]. The pulp of the mature fruit relieves dermatitis. It is also useful as an anti-inflammatory and for dropsy and gastric conditions[ 404 ]. Also has potential immuno-suppressive action. Constituents are: gum, fat and albuminoids[ 404 ].

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Other Uses

Other uses rating: Medium (3/5). Other Uses The leaves have a wide range of uses, such as thatching for house roots and walls, weaving into baskets, mats and many other items[ 46 , 297 , 303 , 404 ]. Thatch made from the leaves is said to last at least 2 years[ 303 ]. The top young leaves are made into hats, boxes to store rice, baskets, fans, etc[ 404 ] A number of different fibres can be obtained from the plant[ 46 ]. A fibre obtained from the leaves is used to make string, rope, fencing etc[ 297 ]. The fibres of young leaves can be woven into delicate patterns[ 303 ]. The fibre obtained from the base of the petioles, or the sheathing leafstalks, is stiff, harsh and wiry. It is used to make brushes etc[ 454 ]. Petioles are often can be split into fibre, to be used for weaving and matting[ 303 ]. A fibre is obtained from the inner bark[ 46 ]. The bark fibre can be used to make strong ropes[ 404 ]. A fibre is obtained from the pericarp of the fruit[ 46 ]. The petioles are often used as poles for fencing[ 303 ]. The dried leaflets were at one time used as a paper to record Indian holy texts[ 46 , 297 ]. The lowest 10 metres of the trunk has a hard and strong wood that is heavy, very durable and very resistant to termites, insect borers and decay fungi. It is good for constructing buildings, bridges etc[ 303 , 404 ]. The somewhat softer middle part of the stem can be split into boards[ 303 ]. The whole trunk can be made into a small boat capable of carrying at least three people[ 404 ]. The wood and leaves are used as fuel[ 303 , 404 ]. The wood can be made into charcoal[ 404 ].Other uses rating: Medium (3/5).

Cultivation details

Industrial Crop: Fiber  Management: Standard  Regional Crop  Staple Crop: Oil  Staple Crop: Sugar

The palmyra is a very adaptable palm that can succeed in a wide range of conditions in dry to moist tropical and subtropical climates[ 303 ]. It grows best at elevations below 800 metres[ 303 ]. It can survive with as little as 250mm of rain a year, and one month or more where rainfall is below 25mm[ 297 ], cropping satisfactorily with 500 - 900mm per year[ 303 ]. It will also grow and crop well with rainfall as high as 5,000mm per year[ 303 ]. It grows best where temperatures never fall below 10°c[ 297 ], with an optimum mean annual temperature around 30°c, but it withstands extreme temperatures as high as 45°c and as low as 0°c[ 303 ]. Plants grow well in full sun, even when small[ 297 ]. Prefers a sandy soil[ 303 ], but plants are able to succeed under a wide range of conditions[ 404 ]. Established plants are quite drought resistant and also survive waterlogging quite well[ 303 ]. The palm starts flowering and fruiting 12 - 20 years after germination, usually in the dry season[ 303 ]. A dioecious species, both male and female forms need to be grown if fruit and seed are required[ 404 ]. Suitable for xeriscaping.

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Plants For A Future have a number of books available in paperback and digital form. Book titles include Edible Plants, Edible Perennials, Edible Trees, and Woodland Gardening. Our new book to be released soon is Edible Shrubs.

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Propagation

Seed - pre-soak for 24 hours in warm water and sow in containers or in situ. The seed is difficult to germinate, often taking 12 months or more[ 297 ]. Scarifying it prior to soaking may reduce germination time. When germination occurs, the massive cotyledon grows several metres down into the ground before the roots and leaves appear[ 297 ]. Seeds should thus be planted in deep containers or into a permanent position in the ground as soon as growth begins to appear[ 297 ].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Palmyra Palm, Borassus flaballifer. Other Names: Toddy Palm, Sugar Palm

Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Coming Soon

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

None Known

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : This taxon has not yet been assessed.

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameEdibility RatingMedicinal Rating
Borassus aethiopumAfrican Fan Palm, Palmyra Palm42
Borassus akeassiiAfrican Fan Palm42

 

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For a list of references used on this page please go here
A special thanks to Ken Fern for some of the information used on this page.

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