Friday, 25 January 2013

Wine Palm (Borassus flabellifer)

Commonly known as Wine Palm or Sugar Palm, this palm is native to India, Sri Lanka, Southeast Asia, and New Guinea. 

The Sugar Palm is a tall, robust tree that can live more than 100 years and reach a height of 30m. The cylindrical trunk is ringed with leaf scars. It has large fan-shaped fronds that can be as wide as 3m across. The fronds are a bluish-green colour. The Sugar Palm is often skirted with a layer of brown dead fronds below the fronds. Sugar Palms are slow-growing, especially when they are young, but grow faster with age.

The male inflorescence at up to 2m long is massive, while the female inflorescence is unbranched and covered with sheath-like bracts.

The fruit is a globose drupe that resembles a coconut. They are three-sided when young, becoming more rounded with age. It has overlapping sepals capped at the base of the fruit. The outer covering is smooth, thin, leathery and dark purple, turning almost black after harvesting. Inside the fruit is a juicy mass of long, tough, and course white fibres coated with yellow or orange pulp. Within the mature seed is a solid white kernel which resembles coconut meat but is much harder. When the fruit is very young, this kernel is hollow, soft as jelly, and translucent like ice, and is accompanied by a watery liquid, sweetish and potable. 

The palm produces a sweet sap known as toddy which is obtained from tapping the tip of the inflorescence. The fruits, kernels, seeds, and seedlings can all be eaten.

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