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Nypa fruticans

044 2.jpg
Nypa fruticans, Cairns, QLD.
Photo: M. Fagg, © ANBG

Common Names

Mangrove Palm, Nipah Palm, Nypa, Nipa

417px-Nypa fruticans Blanco2.386-cropped.jpg
Plate from Flora de Filipinas [...] Gran edicion [...] [Atlas II]..., 1880-1883?



Name ref

Nypa fruticans Wurmb

Origin of Name


Nypa fruticans (Mangrove Palm) is the only palm considered a mangrove. It has feather-like fronds 4 to 6 metres long and a large (45 cm diameter) fruiting body which breaks up when mature. Nypa fruticans is an ancient plant, once widespread, with fossil records dating back 60 to 70 million years.

Botanical Description

Nypa fruticans (Mangrove Palm) is a clumping, trunkless palm growing to 10 m in height with rhizomatous roots.

The large fronds are pinnate (feather-like) and usually 3 to 6 (sometimes up to 10) metres long, arising from the base of the plant. Leaflets number up to 120 per leaf, are 60-130 cm long, with a shiny green upper and powdery lower surface. The petiole (leaf stalk) is smooth, shiny and 1-2 m long with a bulbous base enclosing the stem. Leaf bases are below ground, although they are sometimes exposed by erosion.

The yellow inflorescences are on long, sturdy stalks arising from the base of the plant. The female inflorescence is a densely packed, spherical head of flowers. The male inflorescence is a club-shaped spike of closely arranged flowers emerging from lateral stalks below the female inflorescence.

The large spherical fruiting body is 30-45 cm in diameter. Individual fruits (carpels) are egg-shaped, angular, fibrous, 10-15 cm long, 5-8 cm wide and dark brown. Each fruit holds one egg-shaped seed.

Propagules are crypto-viviparous [1],[2], [3].


Found from Sri Lanka, across Asia, to Australian and the Western Pacific Islands. This species has a fairly restricted distribution in Australia. In the Northern Territory populations are found at Maxwell and Tjipripu Creeks, Melville Island and Trepang Bay on Cobourg Peninsula. In Queensland it is found on the north-east coast, with its eastern most location being Herbert River [2], [3], [4].

Localities (not complete):
Nypa fruticans AVH.JPG
Distribution of Nypa fruticans in Australia.
Image: Australia's Virtual Herbarium, 2010


Nypa fruitcans is usually found in large, river-dominated estuaries in wet tropical climates. It cannot tolerate inundation by seawater for long periods and grows well in non-saline conditions. It is usually found in the upper limit of waterways with a high year-round input of freshwater. Upstream distribution is limited by tidal-influenced water fluctuations, which are essential for seed dispersal and deposition of nutrient-rich silt. It prefers soft, silty substrates [8], [2], [3].


In Australia, Nypa fruitcans has been observed flowering in November and December and fruits have been found from October to March [2], [3]. Fruit segments are often found washed up on north coast Northern Territory beaches. These probably originate from south-east Indonesia and can be viable [3].

Nypa fruticans has sticky pollen and pollination is thought to be carried out by drosophilial flies [9]. The morphology of the flowers supports this theory [10].

Seeds are dispersed by tidal fluctuations and colonies are able to expand clonally [8].

In the Tiwi Islands, large mud mussels (Polymesoda erosa [as Geloina coaxans]) can be found around the base of the stems where it grows in fresh water and deep mud [3].

Nypa fruticans is found growing with Xylocarpus granatum, Rhizophora apiculata, Lumnitzera littorea and Dalbergia candenatensis [3].

Biological Interactions
Group Taxon
  18 taxa
Vascular Plants Acrostichum speciosum
Vascular Plants Aegiceras corniculatum
Vascular Plants Avicennia marina
Vascular Plants Bruguiera gymnorhiza
Vascular Plants Bruguiera parviflora
Vascular Plants Bruguiera sexangula
Vascular Plants Cynometra iripa
Vascular Plants Dalbergia candenatensis
Vascular Plants Excoecaria agallocha
Vascular Plants Heritiera littoralis
Vascular Plants Lumnitzera littorea
Vascular Plants Rhizophora apiculata
Vascular Plants Rhizophora mucronata
Vascular Plants Rhizophora stylosa
Vascular Plants Sonneratia alba
Vascular Plants Sonneratia caseolaris
Vascular Plants Xylocarpus granatum
Vascular Plants Xylocarpus moluccensis


The flower stalk of Nypa fruticans can be tapped, yielding a sweet sap. This sap can be drunk as is, boiled to produce a brown sugar or fermented to form alcohol or vinegar. The young fruits are often eaten as a desert in Singapore [11].

Nypa fruticans inflorescence.jpg
Male infloresence of Nypa fruticans Photo: Jean WH Yong

Nypa fruticans, known as rola, is a dreaming or totemic plant for some Tiwi people [12]. Large mud mussels ( Geloina coaxans) that grow around the base of the stems in deep mud are eaten after roasting [3].

Nypa fruticans was possibly introduced to Garig National Park by Macassan fishermen where its Aboriginal name appears to be of Asian origin [13].

Further enthobotanical information can be found in: [3].

Similar Species

No similar species


Nypa fruticans pollen has been recorded in the fossil record from the Upper Cretaceous (65-10 million years ago) [14]. In the early Tertiary period the palm would have been well represented in the Australian flora [15]. Fossil remains have been found from as far south as Tasmania to Africa, Brazil, France and England [16], [2].

Plate of Nypa fruticans from Flora de Filipinas [...] Gran edicion [...] [Atlas II]..., 1880-1883? : http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Nypa_fruticans_Blanco2.386-cropped.jpg

Information on cultivating Nypa fruticans can be found here: http://www.pacsoa.org.au/palms/Nypa/fruticans.html

Lovelock, C. (1994). Mangrove Palm ( Nypa fruticans). Field Guide to the Mangroves of Queensland. Australian Institute of Marine Science. http://www.aims.gov.au/pages/reflib/fg-mangroves/pages/fgm-2627.html

-- EmmaClifton - 2009-07-14

Nypa fruticans leaves.jpg
The trunk or stem of Nypa fruticans grows under the mud with only leaves projecting upwards. In coastal waters of Yap, Pacific Ocean.
Image: Eric Guinther

Nypa fruticans fruit.jpg
Large spherical fruiting head of Nypa fruticans, Singapore.
Image: Sengkang

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Nypa fruticans, Mekong River Delta, Cần Thơ, Vietnam.
Image: Tango7174

Nypa fruticans female.jpg
Female infloresence (in bud) of Nypa fruticans, Yap, Pacific Ocean.
Image: Eric Guinther


  1. Lovelock, C. (1993). Field Guide to the Mangroves of Queensland. Australian Institute of Marine Science, Townsville, Qld. Available online: http://www.aims.gov.au/c/document_library/get_file?uuid=c9dcfc2e-6018-4302-8818-5ab3fe01f91f&groupId=30301 (more)
  2. Duke, N.C. (2006). Australia's Mangroves. The authoritative guide to Australia's mangrove plants. University of Queensland, Brisbane. (more)
  3. Wightman, G. (2006). Mangroves of the Northern Territory, Australia: identification and traditional use. Northern Territory. Dept. of Natural Resources, Environment and the Arts, Palmerston. (more)
  4. Australia's Virtual Herbarium (AVH) (2009). Council of Heads of Australian Herbaria (CHAH). Available at http://www.cpbr.gov.au/chah/avh/index.html (more)
  5. Bunt, J.S. (1982b). Mangrove Transect Data from Northern Queensland. Coastal Studies Series, Australian Institute of Marine Science AIMS-CS-82-1. Australian Institute of Marine Science. 41 p. Available online: http://data.aims.gov.au/extpubs/attachmentDownload?docID=2326 (more)
  6. Bunt, J.S. (1997). The Mangrove Floral and Vegetational Diversity of Hinchinbrook Island and the Adjacent Coast. Australian Institute of Marine Science, Townsville. Available online: http://data.aims.gov.au/extpubs/attachmentDownload?docID=3018 (more)
  7. Boto, K.G., Bunt, J.S. and Wellington, J.T. (1984). Variations in mangrove forest productivity in northern Australia and Papua New Guinea. Estuarine Coastal and Shelf Science 19(3): 321-329. Available online: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6WDV-4DV0KPV-CY&_user=2322062&_coverDate=09,2F30,2F1984&_rdoc=1&_fmt=high&_orig=search&_origin=search&_sort=d&_docanchor=&view=c&_searchStrId=1655468263&_rerunOrigin=google&_acct=C000056895&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=2322062&md5=09397a6e327acf15899ed3f7ddc83a82&searchtype=a (more)
  8. Dowe, J. and Tucker, R. (1993). Notes on the Mangrove Palm Nypa fruticans Wurmb. in Queensland. Palm and Cycad Societies of Australia. Available at: http://www.pacsoa.org.au/palms/Nypa/fruticans.html (more)
  9. Essig, F.B. (1973). Pollination in some New Guinea palms. Principes 17 (3): 75-83. (more)
  10. Uhl, N.W. and Moore Jr., H.R. (1977). Correlations of Inflorescence, Flower Structure, and Floral Anatomy with Pollination in Some Palms. Biotropica 9 (3): 170-190. (more)
  11. Tan, R. (2001). Nipah Palm. Nypa fruticans. Mangrove and wetland wildlife at Sungei Buloh Nature Park. Available online: http://www.naturia.per.sg/buloh/plants/palm_nipah.htm (more)
  12. Puruntatameri, J., Puruntatameri, R., Pangiraminni, A., Burak, L., Tipuamantymirri, C., Tipakalippa, M., Puruntatameri, J., Puruntatameri, P., Pupangamirri, J. B., Kerinaiua, R., Tipiloura, D., Orsto, M.-M., Kantilla, B., Kurrupuwu, M., Puruntatameri, P. F., Puruntatameri, T. D., Puruntatameri, L., Kantilla, K., Wilson, J., Cusack, J., Jackson, D., and Wightman, G. (2001). Tiwi Plants and Animals : Aboriginal Flora and Fauna Knowledge from Bathurst and Melville Islands, northern Australia. Darwin: Parks and Wildlife Commission of the Northern Territory and Tiwi Land Council. (more)
  13. Wightman, G. (2006b). Mangrove Plant Identikit from north Australia's Top End. Greening Australia NT, Darwin. (more)
  14. Cronquist, A. (1981). An Integrated System of Classification of Flowering Plants. Columbia University Press, New York. (more)
  15. Barlow, B.A. (1981). The Australian flora: its origin and evolution. Flora of Australia 1: 25-76. (more)
  16. Morley, B.D. and Toelken, H.R. (eds). (1983). Flowering Plants in Australia. Rigby Publishers, Adelaide. (more)

Biological Interactions
Relation Taxon GroupSorted ascending
Occurs with Polymesoda_erosa Molluscs_Bivalvia
OccursWith Acrostichum_speciosum Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Aegiceras_corniculatum Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Avicennia_marina Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Bruguiera_gymnorhiza Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Bruguiera_parviflora Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Bruguiera_sexangula Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Cynometra_iripa Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Excoecaria_agallocha Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Heritiera_littoralis Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Lumnitzera_littorea Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Rhizophora_X_lamarckii Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Rhizophora_apiculata Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Rhizophora_mucronata Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Rhizophora_stylosa Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Sonneratia_X_urama Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Sonneratia_alba Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Sonneratia_caseolaris Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Xylocarpus_granatum Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Xylocarpus_moluccensis Vascular_Plants
OccursWith Dalbergia_candenatensis Vascular_Plants