Caryota mitis

Botanical Name

Caryota mitis Lour [2]

Synonyms

Caryota furfuracea Blume ex Mart

Caryota sobolifera Wall

Caryota griffithii Becc [1], [5]

 

Family

Palmae

Vernacular Names

 

Malay Nudok, Dudok (Peninsular Malaysia); Leseh, Leuteu, Mudor (Sarawak)
English

Burmese Fishtail Palm, Cariota, Clustered Fishtail Palm, Fishtail Palm, Griffithii, Toddy Fishtail Palm, Tufted Fishtail Palm, Wine Palm.

Indonesia

Sarai

Thailand

Taou-rung-dang

Philippines
Bato, Pugahan
Myanmar Minbow
Vietnam Dung dinh
Chinese Duan sui yu wei kui; Tuan sui yi wei k’uei; Jiu-ye zi, Chui yeh tzu [1] [2] [3] [5]

 

Description

Caryotis mitis is a member of the Palmae family. It is a cluster forming palm reaching up to a height of 8 m. The leaves are bipinnate, 1 – 3 m long. The leaflets are numerous obliguely wedge-shaped, 10 – 20 cm long. Inflorescences are borne among or below the leaves. They are usually 1.5 m long with up to 60 flowering branches. The flowers are purple to maroon. The fruits are globose, 2 cm in diameter, purple-black or reddish. [2]

Distribution

Now generally found throughout the world as it is a very popular ornamental palm. [1] [2]

Plant Use

Ornamental. Various parts of the plant have been used in many different ways by natives of countries where this plant grows in the wild. The kernels of the fruit and the terminal bud are edible but only after proper processing. The inflorescence can yield saps which can be consumed fresh as ‘nira’ or fermented to produce ‘toddy’, then distilled into potent ‘arak’. A process of refining the sap can produce sugar called jiggery which contains 2.3% protein and significant amount of vitamins.  The core of the growing tip can be cooked and eaten. Starch (sago) can be extracted from the pith which forms part of the diet of the aboriginal dwellers of the rainforest. [1]

Medicinally, the fibers are used to treat poisonous animal bites and insect stings.

Toxic Parts

Fruit, leaves and stems contain various alkaloids. Pulp of mature fruit contains calcium oxalate crystals. Fibrous hairs of the leaf stalk produce skin irritation. [1]

Toxin

Calcium oxalate, alkaloids and mechanical (fibrous hairs of base of leaf stalk) [1]

Risk Management

As an ornamental plant, it should not pose much danger to children as the ripe fruits would be well above the reach of the child. However, it would be best if parents could cut off the fruit bunch as they begin to ripen and discard them. [1] [3]

Clinical Findings

The crystalline needles form the juice of the ripe fruit causes intense itching within seconds. This is followed by redness and swelling lasting up to 12 hours. It can also cause intense pain and irritation in the eye. [1]. If ingested it will result in painful burning sensation of the lips and oral cavity. The inflammatory reaction is often accompanied with oedema and blistering. Victim may experience hoarsness, dysphonia and dysphagia. If very severe it can result in asphyxiation should the larynx be affected. [1]

Management

The crystals can be manually removed using adhesive tapes. However, the pain and swelling would subside slowly without treatment. [1] For those who ingested the fruits, cold liquids or demulcents can be giving and retained in the oral cavity in order to relieve the pain. Analgesics can be given if the pain is unbearable. There is however no danger of systemic oxalate poisoning as the calcium oxalate is insoluble. [3]

References

  1. Nellis DW. Poisonous Plants and Animals of Florida and the Caribbean. Pineapple Press; 1997. p. 151.
  2. Henderson A. Palms of Southern Asia. Princeton University Press; 2009. p. 95.
  3. Nelson L, Shih RD, Balick MJ. Handbook of Poisonous And Injurious Plants. Springer Berlin; 2007. p. 108–109.
  4. Balick MJ, Beck HT. Useful Palms of the World; A Synoptic Bibliography. Columbia University Press New York; 1990. p. 489.
  5. Buttner R. Mansfeld’s Encyclopedia of Agricultural and Horticultural Crops. Springer Berlin; 2001. p. 2787.