Sunday, March 25, 2012

Nature’s Biggest Bouquet

Photo above : The Largest Flower Structure in the world on the top of a Corypha umbraculifera - Talipot Palm Tree in Malaysia. 25th March 2012

Nature’s Biggest Bouquet
An unusual bloom from a palm tree Corypha umbraculifera - Talipot Palm. These feather-like branches are so magnificent, like the crowning of a tree before it dies.

Corypha umbraculifera Palm is a species of palm, native to southern India and Sri Lanka. The reason we are able to see these palm in Borneo Island is because the British brought them here before WWII. British once rule Borneo before the war.

It is one of the largest palms in the world
It is a fan palm (Arecaceae tribe Corypheae), with large palmate leaves up to 5 m in diameter.

The  Corypha umbraculifera - Talipot Palm bears the largest inflorescence of any plant, 6-8 m long, consisting of one to several million small flowers borne on a branched stalk that forms at the top of the trunk. The palm is monocarpic, flowering only once, when it is 30 to 80 years old. It takes about a year for the fruit to mature, producing thousands of round yellow-green fruit 3-4 cm diameter, containing a single seed.

The plant gradually dies out in a year after fruiting.

The talipot palm is cultivated throughout Southeast Asia, north to southern China. Historically, the leaves were written upon in various Southeast Asian cultures using an iron stylus to create palm leaf manuscripts. The leaves are also used for thatching, and the sap is tapped to make palm wine. 
The tree is known as kudapana in Malayalam Language, which means "umbrella" palm tree. 

Talipot palm :
The blooming palm :

Photo above : These 2 rare palm trees are located at 4Km Jalan Kuhara Road, Tawau Town of Malaysia. 17-6-2012

Rare palm trees origin to the Bengal region of India
I first notice these 2 palm trees only in 2010 even thought I have been passing by the Jalan Kuhara Road for more then 10 years since I came to Tawau Town in 1998.  The magnificent bloom from the first tree in  2010 attracted me.

The first tree bloom in 2010 and by 2012 it dried and witting out (see photo above). But immediately followed by the bloom of the second tree.

Photo above : Insert small image of the young caretaker as a comparison of his height with the palm tree.  15-7-2012

The young caretaker is seen in above image. This caretaker of the family garden is about 1.5 meters.  With his size as a scale, the diameter of the palm tree is about 1.2 meters and the height of the tree is about 25 meters. A huge, imposing tree, more so when mature and flowering.

The  two  Talipot palms of Jalan Kuhara Road in Malaysia

These two  Talipot palm Corypha umbraculifera (originate of  tropical Sri Lanka and India) have a life span as long as 50 to 70 years before it flowers and fruits just one time and then dies. The huge panicle (many-branched cluster) of creamy white blooms rises up to 5 meters (16 feet) from the center of the cluster of fan-shaped leaves topping the trunk, which may be 24 meters (about 80 feet) tall. In Philippines the leaves are used for main crafts to make hats, mats, baskets and the thread bone is used for cleaning and decorations

And now, after so many years and decades, is the long awaited moment of flowering and fruiting time of these two trees. And I know, is also the come of age of these two trees.

Unable to resist the temptation of such a huge natural beauty, I wanted to come closer for a nearer encounter. It’s a moment of once a life time of 50 to 70 years. So in a hot Sunday afternoon on 15 July 2012 I approached the always closed entrance gate of house 497 of Kuhara Road. Greeting me immediately were two fat big dogs barking fiercely on the other side of the gate. I was not scared by surprised as there is a red small notice on the gate read “Beware of Dog”.

There seem no one around but with the non stop barking of these two dogs, soon a young man came.  

“I want to have a few seed of this big tree…..” I spoke in Malay.

...and after a brief introduction, he open the gate and let me into his front yard garden. But,he first brought away and locks the two big dogs into the dog cage at the back of the house before opening the gate to let me in.

He is the care taker of the house and garden. As we talk, I suggested these two palm trees are 100 years old but he corrected me that the trees were planted in the 1950s which is slightly more then 50 years old now.  I used to believed only the British would plan such exotic plans in Tawau town back then long before and after WWII. Now I might be right as the care taker confirmed that the late house owner was truly an “Orang Putih” (White Man) and this house still belongs to this White Man’s family members.

I left the house with 2 handfuls of both fresh fruits and dried seeds.

Fruits of Corypha umbraculifera - Talipot palm

It takes about a year for the fruit to mature, producing thousands of round green fruit of 3 cm diameter, each containing a single seed. When rip, the yellowish-green fruits falling by the thousands to the ground from 25 meters above.

The plant dies after fruiting with no more sign of green and growth. The dried trunk, however, remain standing tall on the ground for a couple of years to come before it was eroded by nature of rain and wind and vanish from the skyline where it has stand tall for the last 50 over years.

-- One of the most dramatic plants in nature;

-- a huge, imposing tree, more so when mature and flowering;

-- has one of the largest inflorescences of any flowering plant in the world;

-- grows to a height of up to 25 m (80 ft), with a straight cylindrical trunk, 1-1.3 m (3-4 ft) in diameter, ringed with prominent leaf scars, surmounted by a crown of immense, fan-like leaves;

-- a single leaf-blade at full size being as much as 5 m (16 ft) in diameter, with a stout petiole 5 m long and the margin with short dark teeth.

-- At 20-40 yrs(reported up to 80 yrs), it produces an enormous, creamy-white inflorescence, 4-6 m (14-20 ft) high and nearly as broad, which first appears as an erect pole issuing from the center of the crown;

-produces millions of very small flowers, each about size of a finger nail;

-- this is followed about 8 months later by green, marble-like fruit, and about 12 months later by the death of the palm;

-- the leaves become gradually smaller as the palm approaches the flowering stage, withering and falling back along the stem and finally dropping off, leaving only the towering stem and fruiting panicle at the top.

Dominica Botanic Gardens : 

Identification Confirmation
My identification of this palm tree is based on Internet photo images and the identification could be an error.

If you are a Botanist who know this real palm, your correction is greatly appreciated. I am grateful to have your comments.


Anonymous said...

These are stunning photos. I was wondering if anyone got to get any fresh corypha umbraculifera palm tree seeds. I would be willingly to pay handsomely for at least a hundred or more would be great but less is ok. This is my favorite palm in the whole world and can't find it online or anywhere else for that matter. My name is Adam and you can contact me at or just text me at 239-258-2058, just text please for now. Let me know asap, money is of no value when it comes to these palms, lol. Thank you for your time!

小鎮的故事 said...

Dear Anonymous

If I knew this Talipot Palm is someone favorite palm in the whole world and willingly to pay handsomely for a seed, I would surely safely kept the 2 handful rear seeds I collected in 2012. Unknowing its value, I didn’t keep the seeds after photography.

Now what I can do is keep on looking up the blue sky for another flowering tall palm tree and this time never throw the precious seeds away any more.

In fact I did gazed upon another rear flowering palm tree yesterday and this morning when I open my blog and read about the above new comment from your I was very excited.

I just return from a week trip driving to and back across Sabah. While stopping for lunch in Ranau, there I saw another rear flowering old Palm tree. Here is my blog :

And for you a fresh Corypha Umbraculifera palm tree seed, I will keep searching for one and let you know.