The rare fruits of the talipot palm are available!
The talipot palm, Corypha umbraculifera (Arecaceae), is a majestic tree which can be seen at many Buddhist temples. Being native to Sri Lanka, its leaves became the source of paper for religious scripts, a tradition that was exported to Southeast Asia along with Buddhism. A familiar sight and a best selling souvenir at Dokmai Garden is the ‘bai lan’ hat, a gardener’s hat made of the leaves of this palm.
The tree may resemble the toddy palm (Borassus flabellifer) but that palm flowers each year producing edible fruits the size of coconuts. A talipot palm only flowers once in its lifetime, after 30-40 years. The flowering panicle formed is the largest known among all plants, reaching 8 meters. In addition, the leaf of a talipot palm is much larger than the leaf of a toddy palm, up to 4 meters wide! Since even a young talipot palm is very hard to dig up without destroying the long tap root and killing the tree, one has to wait for seeds.
One tree was recently in blossom at Ecole Française d’Extrême-Orient in Chiang Mai, and the director kindly let me collect some fruits. Since we have planted some 15 seeds at Dokmai Garden, we should be happy to share the remaining seeds with any of our VIP card holders for free (sorry, no export). Please keep in mind that this is a slow-growing tree, and at first there is only a root, no leaf, meaning you need to carefully mark the place of the seed so that nobody accidentally hurts it. Select a well drained place where the seedling is shaded but later can reach full sun.
A rare sight – mature fruits of the talipot palm! August 16, 2011.
Text & Photo: Eric Danell & Ketsanee Seehamongkol