An Eco-sustainable World
ArborealSpecies Plant

Nypa fruticans

Nypa fruticans

The atap palm or mangrove palm, nipa palm, nypa palm, water coconut, water palm (Nypa fruticans Wurmb, 1779) is an arboreal species belonging to the Arecaceae family.

Systematic –
From a systematic point of view it belongs to:
Eukaryota domain,
Kingdom Plantae,
Division Magnoliophyta,
Class Liliopsida,
Subclass Arecidae,
Order Arecales,
Arecaceae family,
Subfamily Nypoideae,
Genus Nypa,
Species N. fruticans.
The terms are synonymous:
– Cocos nypa Lour.;
– Nipa arborescens Wurmb;
– Nipa arborescens Wurmb ex H.Wendl.;
– Nipa fruticans (Wurmb) Thunb.;
– Nipa fruticans var. neameana F.M.Bailey;
– Nipa litoralis Blanco;
– Nipa littorals Blanco;
– Nypa arborescens Wurmb;
– Nypa arborescens Wurmb ex H.Wendl.;
– Nypa fruticans var. neameana F.M.Bailey..

Etymology –
The term Nypa comes from the Malay vernacular name “nipah”.
The specific epithet fruticans comes from the present participle of the Latin verb “frutico”, that is, to emit shoots, in reference to the tufted appearance of the plant.

Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
Nypa fruticans is a palm, unique within its species, which enters as a constituent in the formation of mangroves.
This palm is considered native to an area that includes: China (Hainan), Ryukyu Islands, Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Myanmar, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, Borneo, Java, Moluccas, Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines , Sulawesi, Sumatra, the Bismarck Archipelago, New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, the Caroline Islands and Australia (Queensland and the Northern Territory).
At the beginning of the 20th century it was introduced into Nigeria where it quickly spread to Cameroon, in some cases becoming a pest.
She is reportedly naturalized in Nigeria, the Society Islands of French Polynesia, the Mariana Islands, Panama, and Trinidad.
The Japanese island of Iriomote and the nearby island of Uchibanari represent the northernmost limit of the distribution.
Its habitat is that of areas made up of soft mud and slow waters of the tides and rivers which provide nutrients. Plants can be found inland where the tide can deposit floating nuts. They are common on coasts and rivers flowing into the Indian and Pacific Oceans, from India to the Pacific Islands. The palm survives occasional, short-term droughts in its environment. Despite the name “mangrove palm” and its prevalence in coastal areas, it is only moderately tolerant of salt and suffers when exposed to pure seawater; prefers the brackish waters of estuaries.

Description –
Nypa fruticans is an evergreen, monoecious palm with a prostrate trunk with a diameter of about 30 cm, generally almost entirely submerged in water or silt.
It has large, pinnate, erect or arched leaves, 4 to 9 m long and composed of 50-70 pairs of lanceolate, sharp leaves, 50–130 cm long, bright green on the upper surface, inserted on a yellow rachis to brown.
The inflorescence develops in the axil of the leaves and is orange-yellow in colour, 30–150 cm long, pedunculate, composed of yellowish male flowers, 4–5 mm long concentrated in the apical part of the inflorescence and cream-green female flowers , 10–15 mm long, collected in the basal part.
The fruits, aggregated in globose-shaped cluster infructescences, are obovoid to wedge-shaped, 8-15 cm long and 2-9 cm wide, covered with a thick dark brown integument.
The seeds are roughly ovoid, 4–5 cm long.

Cultivation –
Nypa fruticans is a large evergreen palm that represents a highly appreciated food and source of materials for local populations; it provides edible seeds and sap as well as an excellent thatching material.
This palm is probably the oldest palm species, with evidence showing that it had a pantropical distribution 13-63 million years ago.
In fact, this species, the only representative of the genus Nypa Steck 1757, presents unique characteristics, both from a vegetative point of view, due to its adaptation to the mangrove habitat, and from a reproductive point of view, due to the structure of the inflorescence and flowers, and in a certain primitive sense, within the Arecaceae, fossil finds found in various parts of the globe and dating back to the Upper Cretaceous (about 70 million years) make it one of the oldest palms and monocotyledons living today.
Of great ornamental effect, but little used in this sense due to the size it can reach and the particular needs, it is mainly present in botanical gardens and specialized collections. It can be grown in tropical and humid subtropical climate regions with high rainfall well distributed throughout the year, in full sun, and can grow in different types of soil, even non-submerged, from slightly acidic to slightly alkaline, as long as it is kept constantly wet , and the use of brackish water is not necessary, growing equally well with fresh water.
It is often grown on small plantations to provide food and materials, and is also widely planted along marshy coastlines, often with mangroves, to protect the coast from erosion.
In fact, it plays an important role in the coastal ecosystem by forming dense colonies that prevent erosion, protect the nearby areas by dampening the impact of storms and floods and provide food, shelter and the suitable environment for reproduction to many animal species, which in turn are a significant food resource for the coastal populations.
There are some localized threats to this species due to habitat loss and mining, but it is planted in many areas and is used for many goods and services. As a result, the population is very dynamic, with decreases in some regions and increases in others. While there are overall reductions in range in many areas, these are not sufficient to reach any of the threatened category thresholds.
This palm, as mentioned, is typical of low altitudes in the humid tropics.
It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are between 23 and 27°C, but can tolerate 20-35°C.
It prefers an average annual rainfall of between 2,000 and 2,800 mm, but tolerates 1,500 – 3,500 mm and grows best in a sunny position.
The plants are found only in the tidal mudflats of the humid tropics in nature, although they have also been successfully grown in marshy soils some distance from the sea.
From a pedological point of view it prefers a pH between 6.5 and 7.5, tolerating 5.5 – 8.5.
The first flowering occurs 3 – 4 years after germination.
The plant can be exploited for its sap at the time of the second flowering.
It is a very fast-growing species, which colonizes river estuaries and lagoons, forming dense networks of rhizomes submerged in the mud.
The fruits are floating and their dissemination can be favored by ocean currents.
Propagation occurs by seed. According to the little information found it seems likely that the seed benefits from a period of immersion in the sea since germinating seeds are often washed ashore in the areas where it grows.
The seed must be fresh and must also be stored in warm, permanently moist conditions if it is to germinate.

Customs and Traditions –
Nypa fruticans is known by various common names; among these we report: atap palm, mangrove palm, nipa palm, nypa palm, water coconut, water palm (English); ki-bano, tucannapoon (Australia); goal pata (Bangladesh); cha:k (Cambodia); shui ye, zhú zi (China); anipa, batbat, lasa, nipa, pinog, saga, sasa, tata (Philippines); dhani ped, gim-pol, gol pata, gulga, nipa kaayi, nipamu, phudo, railoi (India); bekas, bobo, buah atap, buyuk, nipah (Indonesia); nippa-yashi (Japan); rabia (Solomon Islands); atap, nipah (Malaysia); Dane (Myanmar); beri, biri-biri (Papua New Guinea); attap (Singapore); gin-pol (Sri Lanka); atta, chak (Thailand); dùa lá, dùa nuóc (Vietnam).
This palm, as mentioned, is one of the oldest living angiosperm species and probably the oldest existing palm species. Fossil remains of the species have also been found outside its current Australasian range and the oldest date back to the Late Cretaceous (65–70 million years ago).
While today there is only one species of Nypa, N. fruticans, with a natural distribution extending from northern Australia through the Indonesian archipelago and the Philippine Islands to China, the genus Nypa once had a near-global distribution in the Eocene (56-33.4 million inhabitants). Years ago).
Fossil mangrove palm pollen from India has been dated to 70 million years ago.
Fossil fruits and seeds of Nypa have been described in Maastrichtian and Danian sediments of the Dakhla Formation of Bir Abu Minqar, Southwestern Desert, Egypt.
Fossilized Nypa nuts dating to the Eocene are found in sand beds at Branksome, Dorset, and in London Clay on the Isle of Sheppey, Kent, England.
A fossil species, N. australis, has been described in Lower Eocene sediments in Macquarie Harbor on the west coast of Tasmania.
Fossils of Nypa have also been recovered from across the New World, in North and South America, dating from at least the Maastrichtian period of the Cretaceous to the Eocene, making its last appearance in the fossil record of North and South America in the late Eocene.
Assuming that the habitat of the extinct Nypa is similar to that of the extant species N. fruticans, the presence of Nypa fossils may indicate monsoonal or at least seasonal rainfall regimes and likely tropical climates. The worldwide distribution of Nypa in the Eocene, especially in deposits from polar latitudes, supports evidence that the Eocene was a period of global warmth, prior to the formation of modern polar ice caps at the end of the Eocene.
From an ecological point of view, long-tailed macaques (Macaca fascicularis) are known to eat the fruit of the nipa palm. Proboscis monkeys have been observed in the Padas Damit Forest Reserve eating the inflorescences. Bornean orangutans eat nipa palm hearts and shoots.
The fungal species Tirisporella beccariana has been found on mangrove palm, as has Phomatospora nypae on palms in Malaysia.
From the immature inflorescences a sugary sap is collected which is used to prepare a sweet syrup, called gur in India, or gula melaka in Malaysia, which in turn can be the basis for the preparation of alcoholic distillates. In the Indonesian islands of Roti and Savu, the sap extracted from the palm is instead used to feed pigs, and is capable of giving the meat a sweetish flavour; if suitably fermented, it is also used for the production of a sort of vinegar in Papua New Guinea and the Philippines where it takes the name of suka.
The flower petals are used for the preparation of herbal teas.
In various Southeast Asian countries the immature, translucent and gelatinous fruits, called attap-chee, are commonly used for the preparation of desserts.
In the Philippines, the appropriately dried fronds of Nypa fruticans are widely used for covering the typical nipa house or bahai kubo or nipa hut, often stilt buildings used both for housing purposes and for shelter from the sun and present everywhere in the archipelago. This use is also widespread in Bangladesh and India, where the palm is known as golpata. The fronds are also used in craftsmanship to weave mats, baskets and other domestic utensils.
In folk medicine, the young shoots of N. fruticans are used as vermicides and the ash is used as an analgesic against headaches and toothaches, as well as for the treatment of herpes.
Among other uses, it is reported that dried leaves, petioles and fruit residues can be used for the production of biofuel.
The rhizomes are used as floats for fishing nets and fishermen believe that they have the property of attracting fish to the nets.
In agroforestry, these palms are planted to control erosion along coastal mudflats.
The plant is classified as “Least Concern” in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (2013).

Preparation Method –
Nypa fruticans is a palm whose fruits are edible, in particular the gelatinous endosperm of the immature ones, sweet, with a pleasant flavor and rich in antioxidants. From the sap, obtained in quantity by cutting the peduncle of the inflorescences, sugar, molasses, vinegar and alcoholic beverages are obtained. Furthermore, all parts of the plant are used in traditional medicine.
The seed is also eaten, harvested when the fruits are immature; It has a delicious creamy flavour. The white endosperm of the immature seeds is sweet and gelatinous and is eaten as a snack.
The mature seeds are sometimes eaten, but they are very hard.
From the inflorescence a sugary sap is obtained which is mainly used to prepare an alcoholic drink, but also to produce syrups, sugar and vinegar.
The inflorescence itself is cooked in the syrup obtained from the inflorescence to obtain an energetic sweet.
In the medicinal field, as mentioned, various parts of the nipa palm are a source of traditional medicines (for example, the juice of young shoots is used against herpes, the ash of burnt nipa material against toothaches and headaches) .
Some parts of the plant are used as a remedy against centipede bites and as a cure for ulcers.

Guido Bissanti

– Acta Plantarum – Flora of the Italian Regions.
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– GBIF, the Global Biodiversity Information Facility.
– Useful Tropical Plants Database.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (ed.), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora d’Italia, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Treben M., 2000. Health from the Lord’s Pharmacy, Advice and experiences with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Editore.

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Attention: Pharmaceutical applications and food uses are indicated for informational purposes only, they do not represent in any way a medical prescription; we therefore decline any responsibility for their use for healing, aesthetic or food purposes.

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