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Nipa palm – edible wild plant – how to find, identify, prepare, and other uses for survival.

Nipa palm growing on bank of river

Nipa palm plant (Nipa fruticans)

Nipa palm fruit/nutsThe Nipa palm has a short, mainly underground, horizontal trunk (from above ground it appears to have no trunk at all) and very large, erect leaves up to 9 meters (30 feet) tall. The leaves are divided into leaflets. A flowering head forms on a short erect stern that rises among the palm leaves. The flowers are globular shape with catkin-like red or yellow flowers on the lower branches.  The flowers yield a woody nut arranged in a cluster.  This fruiting (seed) head is dark brown and may be 30 centimeters (12 inches) in diameter. The ripe nuts separate from the cluster and float away.

Nipa palm growing on bank of riverWhere to find Nipa palm plants

This palm is common on muddy shores in coastal regions throughout eastern Asia.  They prefer soft mud and slow moving tidal and river waters.  The palm can be found inland too.

Nipa palms thrive in brackish water, which is a mixture of saltwater and freshwater. They are commonly found in low-lying areas that are prone to flooding and are often associated with mangrove forests. These palm trees are known to be very adaptable to their environment and can even tolerate water that is slightly acidic.

Some countries where Nipa palms can be found in the wild include the Philippines, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and Australia. They are also found in other parts of Southeast Asia, such as Thailand, Malaysia, and Vietnam.

Edible parts of the Nipa palm plant

The young flower stalk and the seeds provide a good source of water and food. Cut the flower stalk and collect the sweet juice. The juice is rich in sugar. The seeds are hard but edible.  Immature fruits will be hard, jelly-like.  The petals of the flower can be brewed to make tea.

Other uses for Nipa palm plants

The leaves are excellent as thatch and coarse weaving material and make excellent roof material for thatched dwellings.  The large stems are buoyant and can be used as a semi-floatation device. Here are some other uses of the Nipa palm plant.

  1. Food: The Nipa palm plant is a source of food for many people in Southeast Asia. The sap from the inflorescence of the plant can be used to make sugar, vinegar, and alcoholic drinks. The young shoots and unripe fruit can be cooked and eaten.
  2. Shelter: The leaves of the Nipa palm plant can be used to make roofing materials for houses and other structures. The leaves are woven together and can be used to create durable and waterproof roofs.
  3. Medicine: Different parts of the Nipa palm plant have been used in traditional medicine for a variety of ailments. The sap has been used to treat diarrhea and dysentery, while the leaves have been used to treat headaches and fever.
  4. Fuel: The Nipa palm plant can be used as a source of fuel. The leaves and stems can be used as firewood, while the sap can be distilled to produce a type of biofuel.
  5. Handicrafts: The leaves of the Nipa palm plant can be used to make a variety of handicrafts, such as baskets, mats, and hats. The plant’s inflorescence can also be used to make floral arrangements.

Nipa palm plant picture identification guide

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