The talipot palm blooms just once in its lifetime
A sort of wine can be tapped from the flower stalk of the talipot palm and sago starch harvested from the trunk. Photo: Siva Saravanan
TALIPOT PALM, a grand palm tree of Hawaiian origin, is present in India and other Southeast Asian countries. Suited for tropical regions Corypha Umbracalifera (botanical name) is a monocarpic palm i.e., it bears fruit only once during its lifespan.
Blooming is a rare phenomenon in this palm. In fact it is considered a botanical wonder and once-in-a-lifetime event.
Nature enthusiasts can now witness this rare spectacle in the lawns of the undergraduate Botany education unit, Centre for Plant Breeding and Genetics, Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU), Coimbatore. "Talipot palms sport the world's largest inflorescence (bloom) sometimes over 75 feet tall ," says C. Ramasamy, Vice-Chancellor of TNAU. The tree is in full bloom and is raining down hundreds of flowers every day.
Talipot palm is one of the world's largest palms and grows up to 25 metres. Its leaves (costa palmate) span five metres. It also has four-metre-long petioles. The tree lives up to 80 years and flowers just before it dies.
Blooming takes place in three stages juvenile, flower initiation and vertical rachis. In the next stage, the tree starts yielding seeds. Talipot belongs to the arecacea family and its inflorescence grows up to six metres.
Some of the small pale palm flowers, which are about a fourth of an inch in diameter, gently fall as one looks up. The bright flower cluster `fountaining' up, out and above the massive base of stout green palm fronds, is a sight to behold. Tiny insects hover around the inflorescence.
The tree is said to be in existence since the time of the Buddha. Botanists say that Buddhist teachings used to be written on the palm leaves. The slow-growing tree is also planted in botanical gardens and other landmarks to know the age of the place.
Talipot has many uses. It offers shelter from rain and is used for making thatches, hats, buckets and baskets.
A sort of wine can be tapped from the flower stalk and sago starch harvested from the trunk. Propagation is by seeds and the tree can be grown in homes in tropical regions. Flowering lasts about three months while seed formation takes a year.
Talipot palm is found in large numbers in Ramanathapuram District of Tamil Nadu and in Sri Lanka, botanists say. For details, contact the Department of Botany, TNAU, Coimbatore 641003. Ph: 0422-2431222.
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