Caryota urens L., Sp. Pl. 1189. 1753. Alexander, l.c.; Becc. & Hook. f. in Hook. f., l.c.; Brandis, l.c.; Talbot, l.c. 559; Parker, For. Fl. Punj. Haz. Del. 525. (Reprint ed.) 1956; Maheshwari, l.c. 342; Bailey, l.c. 172.
English: Fish tail palm.
KAMAL A. MALIK
Trunk solitary, annulate, erect, up to 12 m tall, 60-90 cm thick. Leaves up to 3.5 m or more long and up to 3 m wide, not grouped in a terminal crown, but arising successively along the trunk for a good distance below the summit. Leaflets obliquely truncate, 1.2-1.5 m long, alternate, swollen at the point of insertion, outer margin of the leaflets produced into a narrow point, bright green from the lower side; petiole stout; sheath smooth, margin fibrous. Inflorescence axillary, very large, 3 m or more long, pendulous, once branched, branches of equal length. Peduncle curved, thick, enveloped with large bracts, male flowers much larger than the female flowers, longer than broad, slender, 1.2 cm or more in length; calyx 3-lobed, sepal’s margin ciliate; corolla 3-lobed, valvate, woody; stamens 40-45, as long as the petals, anthers acuminate, basifixed, filaments 1-1.5 mm long; pistillode absent; female flower: sepals as in the male; petals 3, lobes valvate, short; staminodes 3. Fruit small, 2 cm in diameter, juicy, juice irritant due to oxalate crystals. Seeds 1-2.
Fl. Per.: April-May.
Lectotype: Schunda-pana of Rheede, Hort. Ind. Malabar. 1:15-16. Pl. 11. 1678-1703. (Moore & Dransfield in Taxon 28 (1,2/3): 70. 1979).
Distribution: Tropical Asia, India, Ceylon, Burma. Occasionally cultivated in Pakistan.
This tree is of considerable economic importance. It produces strong fibres which are made into ropes, brushes and baskets. It also yields toddy. The nuts are used medicinally to allay thirst and in the case of hamicrania. The fruit is capable of irritating the skin and causing a burning sensation. This is said to be the reason for the specific name “urens” (burning).