Caryota urens (solitary fishtail palm)
Illustration of Caryota urens (solitary fishtail palm) by Alfred Hay
Caryota urens L.
solitary fishtail palm, toddy palm, wine palm, jaggery palm
Least Concern (LC) according to IUCN Red List criteria.
Food, beverage, fibre, timber, ornamental.
Fruits of all Caryota species contain oxalic acid crystals, which are skin and membrane irritants.
About this species
Caryota species are the only palms with bipinnate leaves (meaning they are divided into leaflets that divide a second time). The ultimate leaflets have a characteristic shape, somewhat like the tail of a fish, leading to the popular English name of fishtail palm. The specific epithet urens is Latin for 'stinging’ or ‘burning', alluding to the oxalic acid crystals in the fruits, which are skin and membrane irritants.
Solitary fishtail palm is used in several ways: the sap is fermented into an alcoholic drink or boiled down to make syrup or sugar, the inner tissue is used as sago (food starch), and the leaves produce strong fibres that are made into ropes, brushes and baskets.