Nypa Steck
  • Sagu: 15 (1757) 

Notes: Distribution: Sri Lanka to Nansei-shoto and Caroline Is.

General Description

Large, creeping, unarmed, pleonanthic, monoecious palm. Stem stout, prostrate or subterranean, branching dichotomously, curved leaf scars evident above, roots borne along the lower side. Leaves few, very large, erect, reduplicately pinnate; sheath soon splitting, glabrous; petiole stout, elongate, wide basally, channelled adaxially, terete distally, the base often persistent as a conical stub after the blade has disintegrated; rachis terete basally, becoming angled distally; leaflets numerous, single-fold, regularly arranged, acute, coriaceous, midrib prominent bearing distinctive, shining, chestnut-coloured, membranous ramenta abaxially, transverse veinlets not evident. Inflorescences solitary, interfoliar, erect, branching to 5(–6) orders, protogynous; peduncle terete; prophyll 2-keeled, tubular; peduncular bract tubular, somewhat inflated, pointed, rubbery, splitting longitudinally; rachis usually shorter than the peduncle, terete, terminating in a head of pistillate flowers and below this bearing 7–9 spirally arranged, closed, ± inflated, tubular bracts each subtending a first-order branch; first-order branches adnate ca. 1/2 their length above the subtending bracts, each bearing and enclosed by a tubular prophyll in bud; subsequent branches all bearing a complete, tubular, closed prophyll and ending in a short catkin-like rachilla, bearing densely crowded, spirally arranged, solitary staminate flowers, each subtended by a small bract. Staminate flowers sessile; sepals 3, distinct, narrow, oblanceolate; petals 3, distinct, slightly imbricate, similar to the sepals but slightly larger, both loosely closed over the stamens in bud; stamens 3, filaments and connectives connate in a solid stalk, anthers elongate, extrorse; pistillode lacking. Pollen spheroidal, bi-laterally symmetric; aperture a meridional zonasulcus; ectexine semi-tectate, finely reticulate with wide-based supratectal spines; infratectum columellate; diameter 37–80 µm; post-meiotic tetrads tetragonal [1/1]. Pistillate flowers very different from the staminate; sepals 3, distinct, irregularly oblanceolate, petals 3, similar to those of the staminate flower; staminodes lacking; carpels 3(–4), distinct, much longer than and obscuring the perianth at maturity, ± obovoid, asymmetrical, angled by mutual pressure, ± acute distally, and with a ± lateral, funnel-shaped stigmatic opening, ovule anatropous, attached dorsally or submarginally near the base of the locule. Fruit borne in ± globose head, fertile and partially developed fruits intermixed, 1–3 carpels per flower maturing a seed; fruit developing from 1 carpel, compressed and irregularly angled, stigmatic remains terminal, pyramidal; epicarp smooth, mesocarp fibrous, endocarp thick, composed of interwoven fibrous strands, with an adaxial internal longitudinal ridge intruded into the seed. Seed broadly ovoid, grooved adaxially, hilum basal, raphe branches ascending from the base, endosperm homogeneous or rarely ruminate, with a central hollow; embryo basal. Germination on the fruiting head with the plumule exserted and pushing the fruit away; eophyll bifid or with several leaflets. Cytology: 2n = 34.

Diagnostic Description

Pinnate-leaved mangrove palm with horizontally creeping dichotomously branching stem, usually concealed by mud, distinctive in the erect inflorescence with orange-yellow bracts and the massive round head of shiny grooved fruits.


Leaf (Tomlinson 1961); root (Seubert 1996b); silica bodies hat-shaped; central vascular bundles of petioles with a single phloem strand; floral (Uhl 1972a, Uhl and Moore 1977a).


Nypa is strictly a mangrove palm, occurring in a variety of estuarine situations; it usually grows in soft mud, often in vast natural stands. Pollination appears to be by drosophilid flies in New Guinea (Essig 1973), but Hoppe (2005) suggests a combination of pollination by various different insects and possibly also wind; correlations of pollination with floral anatomy and development have been noted (Uhl and Moore 1977a).


A single species, Nypa fruticans, occurring from Sri Lanka and the Ganges Delta to Australia, the Solomon Islands and the Ryukyu Islands. Introduced in the late 19th Century to the Niger Delta in West Africa, Nypa has now spread thence to western Cameroon. It has also been reported recently as naturalised in Panama (Duke 1991) and Trinidad (Bacon 2001), possibly having arrived from West Africa by ocean currents.


Nypa fruticans is ethnobotanically very important. The leaves are one of the most important sources for the production of palm shingles (‘atap’) for thatching, and also have minor uses such as for cigarette papers and fishing floats. The inflorescences are tapped for sap for sugar and alcohol production. The large natural stands of Nypa remain a greatly underexploited resource for fuel alcohol. The young endosperm is eaten, usually boiled in syrup, as a sweetmeat. The great but passive potential of Nypa as a stabiliser of estuarine mud in preventing coastal erosion should not be underestimated. For details of the utilisation of Nypa, see Burkill (1966), Brown and Merrill (1919) and Fong (1987, 1989).

Common Names

Nipah, mangrove palm.

Distribution Map

  • Native distribution
  • Introduced distribution
Found in
  • Asia-Temperate China Hainan
  • Eastern Asia Nansei-shoto
  • Asia-Tropical Indian Subcontinent Bangladesh
  • India
  • Sri Lanka
  • Indo-China Andaman Is.
  • Cambodia
  • Myanmar
  • Nicobar Is.
  • Thailand
  • Vietnam
  • Malesia Borneo
  • Jawa
  • Malaya
  • Maluku
  • Philippines
  • Sulawesi
  • Sumatera
  • Papuasia Bismarck Archipelago
  • New Guinea
  • Solomon Is.
  • Australasia Australia Northern Territory
  • Queensland
  • Pacific Northwestern Pacific Caroline Is.
Introduced into
  • Africa West Tropical Africa Nigeria
  • West-Central Tropical Africa Cameroon
  • Pacific Northwestern Pacific Marianas
  • South-Central Pacific Society Is.
  • Southern America Caribbean Trinidad-Tobago
  • Central America Panamá
  • Northern South America Guyana

Included Species



  • 1 J. Dransfield & N. Uhl & C. Asmussen & W.J. Baker & M. Harley & C. Lewis, Genera Palmarum. The evolution and classification of palms. 2008
  • 2 Govaerts, R. & Dransfield, J. (2005). World Checklist of Palms: 1-223. The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

 Information From

Palmweb - Palms of the World Online
Palmweb 2011. Palmweb: Palms of the World Online. Published on the internet http://www.palmweb.org. Accessed on 21/04/2013
  • A Content licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License
  • B http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0
eMonocot. (2010, 1st November). Retrieved Wednesday, 8th February, 2012, from http://e-monocot.org.
  • C
  • D Content licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License
World Checklist of Selected Plant Families
WCSP 2014. 'World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. Facilitated by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Published on the Internet; http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/ Retrieved 2011 onwards
  • E See http://kew.org/about-kew/website-information/legal-notices/index.htm You may use data on these Terms and Conditions and on further condition that: The data is not used for commercial purposes; You may copy and retain data solely for scholarly, educational or research purposes; You may not publish our data, except for small extracts provided for illustrative purposes and duly acknowledged; You acknowledge the source of the data by the words "With the permission of the Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew" in a position which is reasonably prominent in view of your use of the data; Any other use of data or any other content from this website may only be made with our prior written agreement.