Corypha (PROSEA)

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Plant Resources of South-East Asia
List of species

Corypha L.

Family: Palmae

Major species and synonyms

  • Corypha lecomtei Beccari, synonym: C. laevis (Loureiro) A. Chev.
  • Corypha umbraculifera L., synonym: Bessia sanguinolenta Raf.
  • Corypha utan Lamk, synonyms: C. elata Roxburgh, C. gembanga (Blume) Blume.

Vernacular names

  • C. lecomtei : Cambodia: trèang, sâmla:ng
  • Thailand: lan
  • Vietnam: lá buôn.
  • C. umbraculifera : Talipot palm, great fan palm (En). Talipot, latanier (Fr). Burma (Myanmar): pe-pen
  • Laos: la:n
  • Thailand: lan (general), laang-mueng-thoeng (northern)
  • Vietnam: khai, kè.
  • C. utan : Gebang palm (En)
  • Indonesia: gebang, gewang
  • Malaysia: ibus
  • Philippines: buri (Tagalog), ibus (Tagalog), silag (Ilokano)
  • Thailand: lan, lan-phru (southern)
  • Vietnam: lá buôn cao.


Corypha consists of about 8 species, mainly occurring in South-East Asia, extending to southern China, southern India and northern Australia. The distribution has probably been greatly influenced by humans through cultivation. C. lecomtei occurs in Indo-China and Thailand; C. umbraculifera is only known from cultivation, mostly from Sri Lanka, India, Burma (Myanmar), Thailand, and Indo-China; C. utan occurs throughout South-East Asia, Bangladesh, Assam (India), tropical Australia; in the Philippines, it ranks third in importance after coconut and nipa palm.


Although most uses are reported for C. utan, it is assumed that the other species are or can be used similarly. When the palm approaches the flowering stage, sago can be obtained from the trunk. The starch is reddish, easily digestible, but only consumed by people in times of food scarcity. It is also used as pig food. Juice can be tapped from the palm tops (all leaves are removed; tree dies after tapping) or from the inflorescence (branches tied together, slices are cut off), from which palm wine, sugar, alcohol, or vinegar can be made. The wood of the stem is used to make drums or is split to serve as roof tiles. The young growing shoots are consumed cooked as a vegetable. Adult leaves are used for thatching, and to make umbrellas and coarse mats. The fibres of the petiole are used to make string and a famous type of hat (Philippine "bangkok hats"). Young leaves are cut into strips and used to weave mats, bags, nets, and hats. A special kind of fibre is obtained by removing the epidermis of young leaves; the remaining part ("agel" or "papas") is used to weave fine cloth, fishing nets, mats, etc. Formerly, leaves were also used as writing material. The young fruits are edible. Nearly-ripe fruits are toxic and are used as fish poison. Ripe seeds are as hard as ivory, and turn black; they are used to make buttons and rosary beads. In traditional medicine, juice of the roots is used against diarrhoea and coughs; the sago is applied for bowel complaints; the red-brown gum oozing from the apex of the palm is used against cough, dysentery, and is applied to wounds; a decoction of young plants is used against feverish colds. All Corypha palms are also occasionally planted as ornamentals.


  • Massive, solitary, armed, hapaxanthic, hermaphroditic tree palms.
  • Stem erect, closely ringed with leaf scars.
  • Leaves induplicate, orbicular, costapalmate, withering early, tending to abscise under their own weight in trunked trees; petiole massive, long, deeply channeled, sharply-toothed margins; blade regularly divided to about half its radius into single-fold segments.
  • Inflorescence a massive terminal much-branched structure, final branches ending as rachillae bearing spirally arranged adnate cincinni of up to 10 flowers, the whole inflorescence bearing up to 10 million flowers.
  • Calyx tubular, 3-lobed; petals 3, boat-shaped; stamens 6; ovary 3-grooved, globose.
  • Fruit globose, single-seeded. Seed globose, germination remote-tubular.
  • C. lecomtei : stem up to 10 m tall, 40-60 cm in diameter; petiole 8 m or longer; blade 4.5 m long with 50 segments; inflorescence about 2.5 m long; fruit 3-5 cm in diameter.
  • C. umbraculifera : stem up to 25 m tall, up to 1 m in diameter; petiole 2-3 m long, blade 3-5 m long with 80-100 segments; inflorescence 3-8 m long; fruit 3-3.5 cm in diameter.
  • C. utan : stem up to 30 m tall, 35-75 cm in diameter; petiole 2-5 m long, blade 1.5-3.5 m long with 80-100 segments; inflorescence 3-6 m long; fruit 2-2.5 cm in diameter.

The vegetative period lasts 30(-70) years, the flowering and fruiting period 1-2 years, after which the palm dies. The inflorescence is the largest among seed plants. Most Corypha palms are associated with human settlements. In the wild they are probably a feature of open seral communities such as alluvial plains or coastal forest. They do not occur in climax tropical rain forest. The group needs taxonomic clarification.

Selected sources

3, 9, 13, 17, 32, 40, 42, 48, 49, 57, 66, 69, 81, 85, 93, 94.


L.E. Groen, J.S. Siemonsma & P.C.M. Jansen