Areca nibung Mart.
Areca spinosa Hasselt & Kunth
Areca tigillaria Jack
Euterpe filamentosa Kunth
Keppleria tigillaria (Jack) Meisn.
Oncosperma cambodianum Hance
Oncosperma filamentosum (Kunth) Blume
Common Name: Nibung
Plants growing in native habitat
Photograph by: Scott Zona
Nibung is an evergreen palm tree growing up to 25 metres tall with leaves up to 3.5 metres long[
]. The stems, which are covered with sharp black prickles 25 - 65mm long, are 10 - 15cm in diameter, occasionally to 25cm[
]. A densely clumping species, with usually 15 - 30 mature stems per clump, though there are sometimes hundreds[
The plant is particularly valued in its native range for its edible, apical bud which is gathered from the wild. The tree also provides a useful timber.
Southeastern Asia - Malaysia to Sumatra, Borneo and the Philippines.
Always by the coast, growing in brackish water coastal swamps, creek banks or on sandy or rocky seashores[
]. It can be found behind the mangroves, on elevated spots in areas of fresh water swamps above the highest flood mark[
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Plants succeed at low elevations in moist tropical climates, with or without a dry period. They grow best in areas where the mean annual temperature falls within the range 20 - 30°c, but can tolerate 10 - 35°c[
]. They prefer a mean annual rainfall in the range 1,500 - 3,000mm, tolerating 1,000 - 3,500mm[
]. They can tolerate a dry season, but even then the driest month should have 25mm or more rain[
Plants grow well in full sun, even when small[
], but can also succeed in light shade[
]. Succeeds in most soils[
]. Plants can tolerate at least some maritime exposure with salt spray and somewhat saline soil conditions[
]. Prefers a pH in the range 6 - 6.5, but tolerates 5.5 - 7[
The apical bud can be eaten raw in salads or cooked as a vegetable[
]. Delicately white with a very sweet, nutty flavour[
]. Removing the bud effectively kills the trunk since it is unable to produce side branches. However, since this is a clump-forming species, it is possible to eat some buds from a clump without killing the clump.
The flowers are used to flavour rice[
Fruit - occasionally eaten[
]. They are used to make preserves and also as a substitute for betel (Areca catechu)[
The leaves are a source of fibre[
]. They are used for making baskets and for thatching[
The spines on the stem are used for blow-darts and as heads of javelins for spearing fish.
Wood - the outer part of the trunk is stronger and more durable than most other palms[
]. Especially durable in water[
]. It is used for house construction, especially for the foundation piles of elevated houses, and is also split into planks for flooring, boat building etc[
]. The hard, elastic and durable outer zone of the stem is used for purposes like construction, piling, rafters and flooring, tools and weapons and furniture[
Seed - pre-soak for 24 hours in warm water and sow in containers. Fresh seed can germinate in under 2 months[
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