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Corypha lecomtei at Tropical botanical garden of Nong Nooch (Pattaya)
Origin and Habitat: Corypha lecomtei is endemic to Cambodia, Laos, Thailand (East, Southeast), and Vietnam (Southern).
Altitude range: Up to about 600 metres above sea level.
Habitat and ecology: It grows on heavy soils in open spaces along water streams in flood-prone lowland areas characterized by a conspicuous seasonality with a high rainfall season and dry season. It is also found persisting in disturbed places, at low elevations. This species in the past was much diffused, being a dominant species in some zones, now its distribution area has drastically reduced due to the expansion of the agriculture and in some zones is now at risk of extinction.
- Corypha lecomtei Becc. ex Lecomte
ENGLISH: Lan palm, Thai talipot palm
ARABIC ( لعربية ): كوريفا ليكومتاي
KHMER or CAMBODIAN: Dramn, Satnlan, Khjêh
THAI (ภาษาไทย): Bai lan, Laan, Lan, ลาน
VIETNAMESE (Tiếng Việt): Là-buôn, Là-buông
Description: Corypha lecomtei, the Thai talipot palm, is a large and beautiful fan palm (Arecaceae tribe Corypheae) with moderately tall, stout, solitary trunk, up to 6 meters tall, with a diameter of 70 cm and is surmounted by many large palmated plaited leaves up to 3 metres across, borne on a commensurately massive spiny stalk some to 6 meter long; old leaves form a skirt. Corypha lecomtei is monoecious, with both sexes on one plant, and monocarpic, every plant flowers only once with a very large terminal infloresecence that produces thousands of golfball-sized seeds. This means it has only one chance to bear fruit, (like Caryota genus). Even though still a large palm, this species from Southeast Asia and southern China is of considerably more moderate size than the massive talipot palm (Corypha umbraculifera).
Distinvtive characteristics: Petioles green, with black margins; stems without a spiral furrow.
Derivation of speciefic name: The species is honoured to the French botanist Paul Henry Lecomte (1856-1934).
Stem: Unbranded, about 5-6 m tall and up to 70(-100) cm in diameter, smooth or often covered covered by the persistent residuals of the petioles of the fallen leaves and without spiral furrows.
Leaves:* Costapalmate, ascendant, (upright), with leaf tips slightly drooping, circular, deep green to grey-green in colour about a 3 meter broad spherical in outline on a 6 meters long, armed green petiole, with 1 cm long small, sharp black and grey teeth, the bases without conspicuous ear-like flaps. Segments about 140 stiff, up to 2 metres long at the centre and united at the base for about half of their length the apices are pendulous.
Inflorescences: Terminal, erect, pyramidal, ramified, up to 10(-12) meter tall, on a 2 meter tall penduncle, individual inflorescences emerging from the mouths of the subtending leaf sheaths, not splitting them, the blossom occurs when the tree is between 40 and 60 years old, when it has stored a great deal of starches, that are converted to sugars, in order to produce the enormous inflorescence.
Flowers: Whitish hermaphrodite.
Fruits: Globular, 7-8 cm. long, and brownish in colour and containing one seed only and tens of thousands may be found on the tree, which dies after the fruit matures.
Bibliography: Major references and further lectures
1) John Dransfield, Natalie W. Uhl, Conny B. Asmussen, William J. Baker, Madeline M. Harley, Carl E. Lewis: Genera Palmarum. “The Evolution and Classification of Palms.” Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew 2008
2) Robert L. Riffle, Paul Craft, Paul “An Encyclopedia of Cultivated Palms” Timber Press, Portland 2003
3) Palmpedia contributors. "Corypha lecomtei" Palmpedia/TropiScape , <http://www.palmpedia.net/wiki/Corypha_lecomtei> 21 Sep. 2014. Web. 9 Nov. 2014.
4) Giuseppe Mazza “Corypha lecomtei” Foto Mazza http://www. photomazza.com> Web. 9 Nov. 2014.
5) Andrew Henderson “Palms of Southern Asia” Princeton University Press, 27/Apr/2009
6) Don Ellison, Anthony Ellison “Cultivated Palms of the World” UNSW Press, 2000
7) Michael J. Balick, Hans T. Beck “Useful Palms of the World” Columbia University Press 1990
8) 8) Công Tụng Thái, Vietnam (Republic). Nhakhảo-cứu và sưu-tà̂m nông-lâm-súc “Natural environment and land use in South Vietnam” Ministry of Agriculture, Directorate of Agricultural Research, 1966
9) Harald Uhlig “Spontaneous and Planned Settlement in Southeast Asia: Forest Clearing and Recent Pioneer Colonization in the ASEAN Countries and Two Case-studies on Thailand” Institute of Asian Affairs, Hamburg, 1984
10) “Medicinal plants of Thailand: past and present” National Identity Board, 1992
Cultivation and Propagation: Corypha lecomtei is relatively easy to grow and very adaptable to moist, but well drained soil type. In cultivation, it requires an open sunny aspect and a tropical or subtropical climate. Needs considerable space, but does not seem too demanding about the soil and it may resist to drought periods, as on the other hand happens in its habitat.
Growth rate: Very slow growing but growth is is somewhat enhanced at hight temperature if it is kept watered and fertilized.
Soils: It is adaptable several neutral pH soil type.
Fertilization: Need a perfect fertilizer diet including all micro nutrients and trace elements or slow release fertilizer, but particularly it is needs plentiful of magnesium. If it doesn't get enough magnesium, the leaves take on a rather unhealthy yellow colour.
Light: Prefers full sun.
Hardiness: It tolerates cooler conditions than other Corypha and apart from tropical areas, it will also grow in some warm temperate places. The plant is little cultivated outside its origin zone and there are not, for instance, many information about its resistance to the low temperatures. It looks like that the leaves get damages at -2 °C, and that the whole plant dies when the temperatures decrease of further two, three degrees, even if for very short time.
Drought tolerance:This palms like to be sparingly watered and is somewhat drought tolerant. During the summer or warmer months, water frequently to keep the soil from drying out. It need also elevated summer humidity, a dry atmosphere can be detrimental. Will not tolerate dry climate.
Remarks: Few people are aware of just how large this palm can get, and one often sees it planted in places where its going to cause real problems later on.
Aerosol salt tolerance: It is moderately salt tolerant, but does a lot better inland then it does on the coast.
Maintenance: Prune diseased, damaged or drying fronds, but do not prune if the frond still has some green colour. Palms recycle nutrients from dead or dying fronds and use them for healthier fronds. Palms only have a set number of new leaves that can sprout and grow per year and removing fronds will not increase that number. If you cut off more than what will grow annually, you could be left with a pretty bare and bald Palm.
Traditional uses: This showy palm has had in the past a remarkable importance in the life of the local populations. Ancient Thai hand-written scriptures, especially for the holy texts, was made onto dried young Talipot palm leaves; such writings may last for several centuries without spoilage, as is shown by the several manuscripts which have come to us. The leaves were cut when still closed and prepared following a definite procedure before being utilized for writing. The fibres gotten from the long petioles were utilized for fabricating sails, ropes and, still nowadays, headgears, baskets, hats and many other objects of common usage. The great leaves served as cover for the huts and makeshift shelters and also the fruits, even if not holding a particularly good taste, were consumed in case of necessity. Corypha lecomtei is also uses as fish poison.
Propagation: It reproduces by seed, utilizing rather deep containers. It germinates in 3-6 months with bottom heat and the seedlings are attractive.
Use: Its very neat appearance and stature makes it perfect near highways and used to accent residential landscapes. A shade screen patio will provide an excellent environment for young specimens which can eventually be planted in a sunny location.
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