DixPix Photographs





The Palms are a remarkable family, which in appropriate circles is known as Arecaceae (often confused with Areceae, another important group), but the older family name of Palmae is still recognized.  Among their species they can claim the tallest monocotyledons, the largest seeds (beware falling coconuts), the largest leaves and the largest inflorescence of flowers.

Palms provide a variety of foods, folk medicines and construction materials, and are the backbone of certain communities.  They have been divided into about 200 genera and ten times as many species, almost all in the tropical zones of the planet, although some have adapted to deserts.  There follows a few of the varieties found in the Indonesian region.  Palm is sometimes rendered Palem in Bahasa, but most common species have several local names.


When people in temperate regions think of palm, they are likely to picture Coconut Palms, leaning over some tropical beach to drop its floating seeds into the ocean.  This happens to be on the north coast of New Guinea, but this mode of dispersion has let the species, Cocos nucifera, populate coasts throughout the tropics. Click to see big picture (483x480 pixels; 79 KB)
And due to the fact that all parts of the Coconut Palm is useful, with the help of mankind it now grows far inland, in this case in the rice paddies of central Sumatra. Click to see big picture (640x480 pixels; 135 KB)
Behold the Coconut, but this is hardly breaking ground, who has not seen one.  They are known as Kelapa in Indonesian. Click to see big picture (640x451 pixels; 150 KB)
Less portrayed is the Coconut Flower, seen here on the way to producing the nut. Click to see big picture (640x476 pixels; 134 KB)
Palms are designed by evolution to withstand storms, they sort of bend and sway.  There are limits, however. Click to see big picture (640x314 pixels; 71 KB)
The Areca Nut or Betel Nut Palm (Areca catechu).  That betel name really refers to a vine leaf in which it is usually wrapped, together with something alkaline.  This is chewed widely in southeast Asia, a mildly intoxicating, tooth staining, addictive and carcinogenic mixture.  The local name is Pinang. Click to see big picture (621x480 pixels; 121 KB)
More utilitarian is the Sago Palm, Metroxylon sagu also known as M. rumphii.  The short, thick trunk of this species is loaded with an edible starch, which forms the basis for survival of several indigenous groups of the Indonesian region. Click to see big picture (370x480 pixels; 108 KB)
For example, here in Sepik River region of Papua New Guinea, sections of the trunk are peeled and the starchy pith reduced to a flour. Click to see big picture (640x416 pixels; 116 KB)
This is mixed with water to produce a portable slurry, and baked to produce sago "cakes".  It is pure starch, protein must be gathered elsewhere. Click to see big picture (640x410 pixels; 101 KB)
Fishtail Palms are of the genus Caryota.  In Indonesia, the most common seems to be C. mitis, but here in Borneo, there is also a species with the odd name of C. no. Click to see big picture (616x480 pixels; 147 KB)
The fruit of Caryota mitis as identified in KEW gardens. mitis fruit
And here is the Giant Fishtail Palm, Caryota no, of Borneo.  The fruit turns purple when ripe, but the palm dies after fruiting.  Lotusland, Montecito, California.
Caryota urens is sometimes known as Fire Palm.  The juice from its berries stings and inflames.  Here at a Rungus longhouse in northern Borneo it was traditionally grown for defence, used as a sort of mace.  Now they say they just grow it to ward off evil spirits. Click to see big picture (342x480 pixels; 95 KB)
The juice of the berries of Caryota urens may be acid, but the sap is sweet. It is one of the species used to make palm wine, and also a form of unrefined or jaggery sugar.  This leads to the palm's other name, the Jaggery Palm. Click to see big picture (360x480 pixels; 125 KB)
The southeast Asian Sugar Palm, Arenga pinnata, is one of the palms most commonly used to make wine and sugar.  Local names include Aren and Enau.  The fruit stay green until almost ripe, and are widely eaten under the name of Kolang-kaling. sugar palm
And here are bolls of Wine Sugar on sale in Saba, where it is known as Gula Merah, or red sugar.  There are claims that this is healthier than refined sugar. Click to see big picture (519x480 pixels; 105 KB)
From northern Suluwesi, the Orange Crownshaft Palm, Areca vestiaria, showing the section of trunk for which it is named, and the fruit. Click to see big picture (640x433 pixels; 119 KB)
The colorful Lipstick Palm, Cyrtostachys renda, is also known as the Sealing Wax Palm.  It is native from Malaysia to New Guinea, but has been widely planted.  The local name is Pinang Merah. Click to see big picture (621x480 pixels; 142 KB)
Even the inflorescence of the Lipstick Palm can be colorful, but the fruit turns black when it is ripe. Click to see big picture (401x480 pixels; 94 KB)
A classical fan palm from Sumatra.  Alas there are many species. Click to see big picture (640x434 pixels; 108 KB)
The unusual fruit of Kerriodoxa elegans, which is known both as the Hurricane Palm and as the White Elephant Palm.  Its origin is a restricted area of Thailand, but it has been widely planted. Click to see big picture (352x480 pixels; 61 KB)
Also widely traveled as an ornamental is the Manila Palm, Veitchia (Adonidea) merrillii.  As the name would suggest, it is originally from the Philippines. Click to see big picture (619x480 pixels; 149 KB)
Rattans are a climbing or scrambling type of palm.  They belong to the Calamoideae subfamily and there are roughly 600 species, 70% being found in Indonesia.  They are widely used in making furniture, although most species are thorny. Click to see big picture (312x480 pixels; 71 KB)
Perhaps it is because of the thorns that many refer Salak (Salacca zalacca) as a rattan, but it is a palm with a short trunk and the thorns are on the long leaf stems. Click to see big picture (270x480 pixels; 64 KB)
The Salak flower grows from near the base and it will never win any beauty contest. Click to see big picture (569x480 pixels; 87 KB)
But the Salak fruit is very tasty and widely sold in southeast Asia.  In English it is known a Snakefruit due to the pattern on the skin, but this peels off easily, just pinch the top, and the contents are delicious. Click to see big picture (640x454 pixels; 146 KB)