The Nipah Palm (Nypa fruticans) is a nationally vulnerable mangrove plant from the family Arecaceae. It is one of the most ancient flowering plants and probably the oldest species of palms.
This palm can be seen at most of our major mangrove forests, such as Pulau Tekong, Pulau Ubin, Pasir Ris, Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, Mandai, Woodlands Town Garden, Berlayar Creek, Seletar, Lim Chu Kang, Pandan, Kranji, St John's Island and Pulau Semakau, among others.
It generally occurs at the upper reaches of mangrove forests, often forming pure stands, usually on fine-grained substrates. It is often found along tidal waterways as well, especially on sites with high freshwater inputs.
The palm lacks a trunk, but instead, has thick underground rhizomatous forking stems. The stems are sometimes exposed on eroding shores.
It is a monocot, and has huge compound leaves up to 9m long. The long leaflets (60-130cm long) have parallel veins.
The female flower occurs in the form of a spherical head.
The male flowers extend from the main flower stalk below the head of the female flower, but as they mature, the long catkins eventually grow taller than the female flower, somewhat forming a circle surrounding the latter.
The fruiting body is a cluster of brown fruits. The fruits drop off from the stem as they mature, and individual fruits will be dispersed by water.
The seed is edible, and is called "attap chee" in the region. The leaves are used for thatching. A sweet syrup can be extracted from the flower stalk in large quantities and made into palm sugar, or used in the production of alcohol (including ‘toddy’), sugar and vinegar. This palm is hence planted in many areas in the region.
- Chong, K. Y., H. T. W. Tan & R. T. Corlett, 2009. A Checklist of the Total Vascular Plant Flora of Singapore: Native, Naturalised and Cultivated Species. Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, National University of Singapore. Singapore. 273 pp.
- Giesen, W., S. Wulffraat, M. Zieren & L. Scholten. 2006. Mangrove guidebook for Southeast Asia. RAP Publication 2006/07. FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific & Wetlands International. Bangkok. 769 pp.
- Ng, P. K. L. & N. Sivasothi. 1999. A guide to the mangroves of Singapore 1 : the ecosystem & plant diversity. Singapore Science Centre. Singapore. 168 pp.
- Teo, S., Ang, W.F., Lok, A. F. S. L., Kurukulasuriya, B.R. and Tan, H. T. W. (2010) The status and distribution of the nipah palm, Nypa fruticans Wurmb (Arecaceae), in Singapore. Nature in Singapore, 3: 45–52.