(Last Updated on : 19/10/2010)
The tree that contains divided leaves and triangular leaflets and got the scientific name of `Caryota Urens` is called as the `Fish Tail Palm` tree. The name `Caryota` derived from the Greek word `Cayotos` that means "nut-like" in reference to the fruit and `Urens` means, "burning" or "stinging". This is a member of the family named `Palmae`. This tree is known as `Man` in Hindi
and `Supari` in Bengali
. In Tamil, it has the names of `Thippali`, `Konda Panna` and `Kundal Panai`. It is named as `Kala-pana`, `Iram-panai` and `Choondappana` in Malayalam. The Telugu people call it as `Mhar`, `Jiluga`, `Man` or `Kondaijivalaggu`. It is called in as many names as the `Fish-Tail Palm`, `Toddy Palm`, `KituI Palm`, `Jaggery Palm`, `Wine Palm` and `Sago Palm` in English.
The tree is very nice and beautiful. It differs in many ways from the other palms. It is very common in all over India. It is usually planted in gardens and makes an attractive pot plant at its young age. It is not that much tall. It is generally 6 m in height and it can reach 15 m at the most. The stem of the tree is smooth, grey coloured and similar to cylinders in shape. A bunch of huge leaves is issued from the top of the tree. However, all of them do not develop from the crown. Many of the leaves of the `Fish Tail Palm` rise from the trunk at interval below the summit. They are bi pinnate in character. The pinna leaves the main stalk at right angles divides into a large number of triangular leaflets. These leaflets grow diagonally. The terminal leaflet is lobed and gives a ragged look to the outer edge of the tree. The flowers of the tree follow the leaves in a strange way. They are quite attractive also. They develop in threes on some long, heavy, floppy cords. The cords remain covered by large and grey coloured sheaths. Amongst those three flowers, the upper one opens first. It is a male flower and is reddish in colour. The two female flowers are greenish in colour.
The strange characteristic of the tree is that it flowers only once during the total course of its existence and it continues in flowers for several years. The first branch of the flowers appears at the top of the `Fish Tail Palm` tree and it is very long. The branch hangs straight down the trunk. When the first branch finishes flowering, the others issue from the axils of lower leaves or the former leaves. They issue until there is a wide level-ended "horse`s tail" of branches. Until the very last one of the flower sheaths appears at the foot of the trunk, this downward development of flower sheaths continues. The fruits of the tree are reddish in colour and they develop from the flowers. They also hang down in a thick "tail". The tail is of the size of a Nutmeg tree and contains a slender and harsh skin. The pulp of this tree is acidic and does sting the hands if you touch them. There are one or two seeds within the pulp.
The wood of the tree is much stronger and more durable than that of other palm trees and can be employed in many domestic purposes. People can obtain Toddy by tapping when the tree is between 15 to 20 years old and commences to flower. The Muslim people use the seeds as beads. A starch can easily be obtained from the interior of the stem. This starch is made into bread or boiled into gruel. The fatal bud or the cabbage of the `Fish Tail Palm` tree is safe to eat and if cooked, it can make a good vegetable. However, if you remove it you will kill the tree. The KituI fibre that is made from the sheaths of the leaf stalks is undoubtedly the most important product of the tree. This fibre is very strong and can be employed in making ropes, brushes, baskets, fishing lines and other articles. Many of these articles are shipped abroad in a regular basis.