Fishtail palm is native to India
The majestic Fishtail palm is found across the state. The Secretariat Garden and AG’s office in Thiruvananthapuram are home to these.
The flowering bunches that resemble the long dense hair of a maiden, never fails to attract attention. It also brings about nostalgia as the flowering bunches were once used to decorate the doorways to marriage halls. Considered a symbol of good fortune, it is also used during celebrations of major festivals.
Native to India, the Fishtail palm (Ulattippana in Malayalam), Caryota urens Linn, belongs to the family Arecaceae. It is a lofty palm that grows up to 30 metres in height. It grows commonly in evergreen forests.
The trunk of the tree is grey in colour, cylindrical and smooth. Fishtail palm has leaflets that remind you of fish fins, hence its name. It takes the palm 10 to 15 years to flower. The flowers, which are large pendulous spikes, grow between four to seven meters in length. It also has a distinctive way of flowering; the first flowering cluster emerges on the top of the mature palm and successive clusters blossom below and so on. When the cluster reaches the ground, the palm dies.
The flowers develop in threes on long, heavy, droopy cords. Among the three flowers, the upper one opens first. It is a male flower and is reddish in colour while the two female flowers are greenish.
The fruits are blackish-red in colour having two seeds within the acidic pulp. Apart from seeds, the fishtail palm develops from suckers growing from the base as well.
Toddy is tapped from Fishtail palm and is sweet. Seeds are often used as decorative beads. Starch obtained from the core of the stem is used as duck feed. Fibre made from the sheaths of the leaf stalks is used in making ropes, brushes, baskets and fishing lines.G.S. UNNIKRISHNAN