Nypa fruticans Wurmb

Etymology Genus From the common name Nipah
Species Shrubby; referring to its form
Family Arecaceae
Synonyms Nipa fruticans (Wurmb) Thunb.
Common Names Nipah Palm
Status Native: Vulnerable
Form Multi-stem palm
Native Distribution Tropical regions from Sri Lanka through Asia to northern Australian and the Western Pacific Islands


This is the only true mangrove palm species; meaning that any palm you see growing in the mud flats of a mangrove is a Nipah Palm.

Interesting Facts:

Nypa fruticans is one of the most ancient angiosperms and probably the oldest species of palms (Päiväke, 1996). Fossil records of its pollen, fruit, leaf, flowering parts, leaf epidermis and root have been found (Dransfield et al., 2008), the oldest dating back to the Upper Cretaceous period some 65-70 million years ago (Gee, 2001).

Describing it as a multi-stem palm is a misnomer, because its stem actually runs horizontally underground. A pure stand of of closely packed Nipah palms might all come from the same individual, since a new plant can grows vegetatively from each branch of the stem that divides dichotomously. The male flower is cat-kin like while the female is globular. After fertilisation, the infructescence develops into a huge spherical ball. Growth of the plumule pushes each fruit away from the infrutescence stalk and being buoyant, they are dispersed by the water when the tide comes.

The Nipah Palm is the most widely utilised mangrove species, with products obtained from the leaves, inflorescences, and fruits. The most noticable of all in present day Singapore is the attap chee found in our local dessert, Ice Kacang. This comes from the gelatinous endosperm from the young seeds.

In Singapore, the Nipah Palm can be found in almost all mangrove habitats and and freshwater bodies (Teo et al., 2010). The latter are previously mangroves before they are converted into reservoirs (e.g., Kranji and Poyan Reservoirs).

The Nipah Palm, the only true mangrove palm species in the world.

Male inflorescences are catkin-like.

The infructescence stalk drooping under the weight of the fruits.

The horizontal stem is normally underground and Y-branched.


Dransfield J, NW Uhl, CB Asmussen, WJ Baker, MM Harley & CE Lewis. (2008) Genera Palmarum: The Evolution and Classification of Palms. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. 732 pp
Gee CT. (2001) The mangrove palm Nypa in the geologic past of the New World. Wetlands Ecology and Management, 9: 181-203.
Päiväke AEA. (1996) Nypa fruticans Wurmb. In: Flach, M. & F. Rumawas. (eds.), Plants Yielding Non-Seed Carbohydrates. Plant Resources of South-East Asia (PROSEA). Volume 9. Pp. 133-137.
Teo S, WF Ang, AFSL Lok, BR Kurukulasuriya & HTW Tan. (2010) The status and distribution of the nipah palm, Nypa fruticans Wurmb (Arecaceae), in Singapore. Nature in Singapore, 3: 45-52.

Author: Jake
Posted: 2013-02-15 / Modified: 2017-12-25