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Nypa fruticans Wurmb

Family Name: Arecaceae (Palmae)
Synonyms: Cocos nypa Lour., Nipa arborescens Wurmb ex H.Wendl., Nipa fruticans (Wurmb) Thunb., Nipa litoralis Blanco
Common Name: Nipah Palm, Mangrove Palm, Nipah, Attap, Water Coconut, 水椰
Full Sun: 6-8h Lots of Water Caterpillar Food Plant Native to Singapore Fruit & Vegetable Coastal Ornamental Flowers Ornamental Foliage Pinnate / Feather Underground or Creeping Trunk Palm


Family Name
Genus Epithet
Species Epithet
Name Authority
Name Status (botanical)
Common Names

Classifications and Characteristics

Plant Division Angiosperms (Flowering Seed Plants) (Monocotyledon)
Plant Growth Form Palm (Cluster Palm)
Lifespan (in Singapore) Perennial
Mode of Nutrition Autotrophic
Plant Shape Fountain (Palm-like)
Maximum Height 4 m to 10 m


Native Distribution India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Hainan, Ryuku Islands, the Philippines, Southeast Asia (Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Brunei), New Guinea, Solomon Islands, and Australia
Native Habitat Shoreline (Mangrove Forest)
Preferred Climate Zone Tropical, Sub-Tropical / Monsoonal
Local Conservation Status 1 Native to Singapore (Vulnerable (VU))

Description and Ethnobotany

Growth Form It is a medium to large-sized, clumping stemless palm with rhizomes, with large, erect leaf fronds above ground, 4–10 m long. Leaf fronds possess stout leaf stalks that are bulbous at the base, 1–1.4 m long.
Foliage Its alternate, stalked, large, erect leaves are about 4–10 m long, slightly recurved, pinnate with up to 100 lanceolate leaflets arranged regularly on each side of the rachis. Leaflets are 60–130 by 5–8 cm, pointed, shiny green on the upper surface and somewhat powdery on the lower surface. The midrib of each leaflet is marked with regular linear brown scales, up to 2 cm long.
Flowers The erect inflorescence is borne on a long, sturdy peduncle, 1–2 m long that arises from the underground stem. Male and female flowers are borne separately on the inflorescence. The female flowers form a spherical head that is about 25–30 cm in diameter, while the male flowers form a catkin below the female inflorescence head.
Fruits Its brown to dark brown fruits borne on a spherical infructescence, 30–45 cm in diameter. Each individual fruit is a reversed egg-shape to oblong ellipsoid, one-seeded fibrous drupe, with an angular tip, 10–15 by 5–8 cm. Seed is white in colour, egg-shaped, about 5 by 4 cm.
Others - Plant Morphology One of few palm species recognizable from fossil records dating back to 70 million years or earlier. Fossilized seeds dating back to as recently as 34 millions ago found in British Isles, suggesting that warmer tropical conditions prevailed in that area during that period.
Habitat On upper limits of tidal waterways in mangrove forests, often as a pure stand on soft, fine-grained substrates. It is known from most mangrove forests in Singapore and in Kranji Reservoir, growing in freshwater.
Associated Fauna Its flowers are insect pollinated. It is the preferred local food plant for the caterpillars of the butterflies, the palm king (Amathusia phidippus) and coconut skipper (Hidari irava).
Cultivation Prefers soft, silt-rich muddy soils and calmer stretches of waterways. Fast-growing, damaged fronds regenerate quickly. Propagate by seeds. Sprouted seeds can be potted up in peatmoss-loam mix, and base of pot immersed in a bucket of water to ensure that media is constantly kept wet. Established seedlings can be transplanted to flooded levees at site. Choose the sunniest possible site to encourage more compact fronds. Allow room for underground trunk to grow.
Etymology Moluccan nipa, traditional vernacular name used in Moluccas and southern Philippines for this species; Latin fruticans, shrubby, referring to the shrubby habit of this species
Ethnobotanical Uses Edible Plant Parts (Edible Seeds)
Food (Fruit & Vegetable : Young translucent-white chewy seeds ('attap chee') edible, usually boiled in sugar syrup and added to local deserts. Inflorescence stalk cut off before flowers open, and tapped for a sweet liquid that can be boiled to yield a brown sugar called 'gula melaka', fermented into an alchoholic drink called 'toddy', or fermented for several more months to yield a vinegar. Flower sheaths can be made into an aromatic tea. Young palm shoots edible.)
Medicinal ( Juice from young shoots is used to treat herpes and the ash of the burned plant is used to treat toothache and headache.)
[Others]: Sap also used to fatten up pigs in parts of Indonesia during dry season when fodder is scarce. Sugar-rich sap can also be distilled into industrial ethanol and biofuel. Dried fronds used to make roof thatch (attap), or weaved into baskets, mats and hats. Young frondlets used to roll cigarettes. Ash collected from burnt frondlets can be used to make a type of salt. The leaflets are also used to manufacture brooms, baskets, mats and hats.

Landscaping Features

Landscaping This palm can be planted half-submerged along the water edges of ponds and waterways, or on waterlogged soil for its tall, attractive lush foliage and orange-yellow flowers.
Desirable Plant Features Ornamental Flowers, Ornamental Fruits, Ornamental Foliage, Ornamental Form
Plant & Rootzone Preference - Tolerance Fertile Loamy Soils, Waterlogged Soils (Drains Site, Does not Drain Site), Saline Soils / Salt Spray
Landscape Uses Coastal, Riverine, Beachfront / Shoreline, Pond / Lake / River, Marsh / Bog
SGMP Treatment
Plant & Rootzone Preference or Tolerance Remarks Does not need saline soils or saltwater to survive, grows equally well in soils flooded with freshwater. Requires fresh flushes of silt. Do not allow soil to dry out.
Species record last updated on: 20 April 2020.