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Nypa fruticans


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


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 (Clustered Habit)
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 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, 0.9–1.7 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 6 – 8 cm in diameter, while the male flowers form a catkin below the female inflorescence head.
Fruit Its brown to dark brown fruits are borne on a spherical infructescence. Each individual fruit is a reversed egg-shaped to oblong ellipsoid, one-seeded fibrous drupe, with an angular tip. The fruit is 8 – 11 by 6 – 8 cm. Seed is white and egg-shaped.
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 or 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
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.

Fauna, Pollination and Dispersal

Fauna Pollination Dispersal Associated Fauna Butterfly Host Plant (Leaves, Associated with: Hidari irava)
Pollination Method(s) Biotic (Fauna) (Insects (Bee))
Seed or Spore Dispersal Abiotic (Water)

Plant Care and Propagation

Light Preference Full Sun
Water Preference Lots of Water
Plant Growth Rate Moderate
Rootzone Tolerance Fertile Loamy Soils, Waterlogged Soils (Drains Site, Does not Drain Site), Saline Soils / Salt Spray
Maintenance Requirements Moderate
Propagation Method Seed


Foliage Retention Evergreen
Mature Foliage Colour(s) Green
Mature Foliage Texture(s) Leathery
Foliar Type Compound (Even-Pinnate)
Foliar Arrangement Along Stem Spiral, Alternate
Foliar Attachment to Stem Petiolate
Foliar Shape(s) Palm Fronds (Pinnate / Feather)
Foliar Venation Parallel
Foliar Margin Entire
Typical Foliar Area Macrophyll ( 182.25cm2 - 1640.25 cm2 )
Leaf Area Index (LAI) for Green Plot Ratio 4.0 (Palm - Cluster)

Non - Foliar and Storage

Trunk Type (Palm) Underground Creeping
Stem Type & Modification Acaulescent
Root Type Underground (Fibrous Root)
Specialised Storage Organ(s) Underground (Stem Tuber)

Floral (Angiosperm)

Flower & Plant Sexuality Unisexual Flowers , Monoecious
Flower Colour(s) Orange, Yellow / Golden
Flower Grouping Cluster / Inflorescence
Flower Location Axillary
Inflorescence Type Catkin
Flowering Habit Polycarpic

Fruit, Seed and Spore

Mature Fruit Colour(s) Black, Brown
Fruit Classification Multiple Fruit

Image Repository



Master ID 1365
Species ID 2658
Flora Disclaimer The information in this website has been compiled from reliable sources, such as reference works on medicinal plants. It is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment and NParks does not purport to provide any medical advice. Readers should always consult his/her physician before using or consuming a plant for medicinal purposes.
Species record last updated on: 08 February 2024.