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Once There Were Four

Did you know there were once four of these magnificent palms towering over the Faculty of Business and Accountancy? These Talipot Palms grow very slowly, but can reach a height of 25 m, or an eight-storey building, yet one of these palms mysteriously died a few years back. So what caused this—a lightning strike? A termite attack?

Truth is stranger than fiction in this case. The Talipot Palm (Corypha umbraculifera) is monocarpic, meaning that it produces flowers only once in its life—after these flowers turn into fruits, the plant dies.

The Talipot has the distinction of having the largest cluster of flowers, or inflorescence, in the world, and it throws in all of its resources into producing thousands of cream-coloured flowers and fruit, which take around a year to mature. This usually happens when the tree is around thirty to eighty years old.

A Talipot in full bloom will be a quite a sight, because the giant branches of flowers sit atop the tree like the fluffy plumage of an exotic bird. This must have happened once in UM’s past, because there were four trees—now there are three! Were you there when the fourth Talipot flowered, or remember when it stood proud and tall? If you have any photographs or stories of this, do share with The RIMBA Project!

Photograph by Benjamin Ong.

#RIMBAstalks documents biodiversity news around campus. Spot a woodpecker, or a macaque stealing your shampoo? Send stories, pictures or videos to us at, or contact us on Facebook!

#articles #treesofUM #TalipotPalm #FacultyofBusinessandAccounting #VanessaTIng #BenjaminOng

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