Tree Species
Borassus flabellifer L.
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Robust, 25-40 m tall, solitary, pleonanthic, dioecious palm. Stem massive, straight, up to 1 m in diameter at base, conical up to about 4 m high, thereafter cylindrical and 40-50 cm in diameter, occasionally branched, covered by leaf bases when young, rough and ringed with leaf scars when older, fringed at the base with a dense mass of long adventitious roots. Leaves (30-)40(-60), arranged spirally, leathery, induplicate, strongly costapalmate; sheath open when young, later with a wide triangular cleft at the base of the petiole; petiole woody, 60-120 cm long, deeply furrowed; margins of sheath and petiole armed with coarse, irregular teeth; blade suborbicular to flabellate, 1-1.5 m in diameter, divided along adaxial folds to about half its length into 60-80 regular, stiff single-fold segments that are about 3 cm broad at base. Inflorescence interfoliar, peduncled, shorter than the leaves, the male and female dissimilar. Male inflorescence massive, up to 2 m long, consisting of about 8 partial inflorescences of three rachillae each; rachilla spike-like, fleshy, 30-45 cm long, bearing spirally arranged imbricate bracts, connate laterally and distally to form large pits, each containing about 30 flowers, exserted singly in succession from the pit mouth; flowers 3-merous with 6 stamens. Female inflorescence unbranched or with a single first order branch, covered with sheath-like bracts; rachilla massive, fleshy, thicker than the male one, bearing large cupular bracts, the first few empty, the subsequent ones each subtending a single female flower with several empty bracts above the flowers; flowers larger than male ones, 3-merous, tricarpellate. " Fruit a globose to subglobose drupe, 15-20 cm in diameter, 1.5-2.5(-3) kg in weight, dark purple to black; petals persistent, brittle, not imbricate; exocarp smooth, thin, leathery; mesocarp thick, juicy, fibrous, often fragrant, yellowish; endocarp usually comprising 3 hard bony pyrenes. Seed shallowly to deeply bilobed, pointed; endosperm sweet and gelatinous when immature, hard and ivory-like with a central cavity when mature. The widespread fan-palm of the less dry areas of tropical Africa is B. aethiopum Mart. In the literature, B. aethiopum has often been considered synonymous with or retained as a variety under B. flabellifer. B. aethiopum, however, is a much more massive plant than B. flabellifer, often with a ventricose stem and leaves with very many more completely rigid leaflets forming a gently undulating leaf surface. In B. flabellifer the stem is not ventricose and the leaves have fewer, less rigid leaflets, forming a deeply grooved surface. The Borassus, occurring in Indonesia from East Java eastwards, differs slightly from B. flabellifer (petals in fruit imbricate at the base, absence of scales on the leaf blades, less branched male inflorescence) and has been described as a different species: B. sundaica Beccari. In this article, B. sundaica is for the time being considered to be conspecific with B. flabellifer.
The palm starts flowering and fruiting 12-20 years after germination, usually in the dry season.
Soil Suitability
It can be found on any kind of soil, preferring soils rich in organic material.
Toddy palm is mainly cultivated in the drier parts of its geographical range, where the sugar palm (Arenga pinnata (Wurmb) Merrill) and the coconut (Cocos nucifera L.) cannot compete. It is usually grown in strictly seasonal tropical or subtropical climates on sandy soils. It is a very adaptable palm, however, growing well in dry areas and is quite drought resistant. It also grows in per-humid areas and survives waterlogging quite well.

Cultivation and Marketing

B. aethiopum grows in tropical Africa and in the east. It was described from India in 1753 and only later in Africa, yet botanists believe its origin to be African.
Toddy palm is propagated solely by seed. Large healthy seeds are sown 10 cm deep and spaced 3-6 m apart, preferably directly in the field because seedlings are difficult to transplant. They are usually planted in groups, in order to facilitate tapping.
Toddy palm does not require much attention once it has established. It responds well to water supply and manure. To tap the inflorescences, some leaves are cut away for easy access. Palms are cut down when they become too tall to be climbed easily. Thinning the plantations to favour more productive female trees is recommended. In Burma (Myanmar) and Cambodia, toddy palm is usually cultivated by smallholders as a cash crop in addition to their main product, rice. Working time has to be divided between the two crops: rice usually requires most labour in the wet season, toddy palm in the dry season.
Diseases: Toddy palm hardly suffers from diseases and pests. Toddy palms growing in rich black soil or soil liable to flooding may succumb to bud-rot, caused by the fungus Phytophthora palmivora, also occurring on the more widely cultivated coconut. The first symptoms are spots on green leaf blades, which spread inwards to the bud. The bud then starts to rot and putrifies. The fungus can successfully be combated by killing and burning diseased palms. Pests: Termites may occasionally attack seedlings. Certain beetle species (Oryctes and Rhynchophorus) feed on dead plant material, but may at dense populations become harmful for living palms. It is therefore necessary to clean stands of all kind of debris. Snakes and other venomous creatures sheltering in the crown may present a hazard to the tapper.
Uses and Function
Boundary or barrier or support: Petioles are often used as poles for fencing. In Burma (Myanmar) and Cambodia, toddy palms are often planted as a windbreak or to delimit fields. Shade or shelter: Toddy palms very often provide shelter to many animals (birds, bats, rats, squirrels, mongooses, monkeys) and plants (orchids, ferns and other epiphytes).
All parts of the toddy palm are used. In India it is called the tree with 800 uses. Food: The main product is the sap obtained from tapping the inflorescences (in B. aethiopum: tapping of the growing point of the trunk), which may be drunk immediately or be processed into sugar or be allowed to ferment for a few hours to become toddy. This mild palm wine with 5-6% alcohol content may later be converted into distilled ethanol (arrack) or vinegar. The soft upper 10 m of the trunk contains some starch, which may be harvested in times of food scarcity. The seedlings (underground and tuber-like) are sometimes grown for use as a starchy vegetable, and eaten boiled or raw, but they may be slightly toxic. In Burma (Myanmar) they are considered a delicacy. The growing point of the palm (palm heart or palm cabbage) is also edible. The tender mesocarp of young fruits is cooked in curry. The ripe fruit has a yellow edible pulp with a distinctive aroma. The young solid or gelatinous endosperm of the seeds is also eaten fresh or in syrup. Fibre: The fibres of young leaves can be woven into delicate patterns. Petioles are often can be split into fibre, to be used for weaving and matting. Fuel: The wood and leaves are also used as fuel. Medicine: Innumerable traditional medicinal uses are known for all parts of the toddy palm. Timber: The lowest 10 m of the trunk has hard and strong wood, good for constructing buildings and bridges. The somewhat softer middle part can be split into boards. Other products: The leaves were formerly used to write on. They may still be used as thatch ('atap') and are said to last at least two years. They are also used for baskets, brushes and buckets.


Wood Density
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