Caryota urens (Fishtail palm)
Species: C. urens
Binomial name: Caryota urens
Common names: Jaggery palm, Solitary fishtail palm, Toddy palm, Wine palm,
Caryota urens is a species of sugar palm from Sri Lanka, Singapore, Myanmar, and India where they grow in fields and rainforest clearings.
It is a solitary trunked tree that measure up to 12 metres in height and up to30 centimetres wide.
Widely-spaced leaf-scar rings cover its gray trunk which culminate in 6 metres wide, 6 metres tall leaf crown.
The leaves are bipinnate (divided into leaflets that divide again) with a terminal leaflet. They are bright to deep green, up to 3.5 m long and held on 60 cm long petioles (leaf stalks). Each leaflet is about 30 cm long with one pointed edge and one jagged edge.
These palms only flower once in their lifetime and die after flowering. When it flowers it develops 3 metres long inflorescences at each leaf node. Flowering begins at the top of the trunk and proceeds downwards, sometimes for several years.
The hanging inflorescence pendent is a cluster of white, unisexual flowers from top to bottom.
The fruit matures to a round, 1 cm red drupe (a fruit with an outer fleshy part that surrounds a hard shell with a single seed inside. As these plants are monocarpic, the completion of the flower and fruiting process results in the death of the tree.
It is the source of kithul treacle, a liquid jaggery (traditional uncentrifuged sugar). All across India and other Asian countries, the sap of solitary fishtail palm is fermented to produce an alcoholic drink called palm wine or toddy.
The specific epithet urens is Latin for 'stinging’ or ‘burning', alluding to the oxalic acid crystals in the fruits, which are skin and membrane irritants.
Photographed at Pukekura Park, New Plymouth.