Monday, November 8, 2010

Red Sealing Wax Palm

Location : Zone C ( near swamp)

Today I was busy clearing the bushes around the Red Sealing Wax Palm at Zone C of our Kambatik Botanic Garden ( see sample above).
This palm is very much embedded in Sarawak's local culture. In my childhood days I always remember how we were sent to the jungles nearby our schools to collect these colourful palm trunks or stems to make decorative arches during our school sports day. In Bintulu it was and still is common to see families in the kampungs putting them up as making arches to welcome those back from performing the Haj pilgrimage. The charateristically bare and erect stems have consipiciously ringed leaf scars. This palm tree grows extremely well in the garden because it is native to Sarawak. In Bintulu it is seen along coastal beaches especially in peat swamp forests. It can be noticed from a distance due to its brilliant, glossy scarlet leaf bases. Its pinnate leaves are stiff in character and its midrib is reddish in fully matured plants. The leaves are directed obliquely outward and look like feathers. Note the inflorescence that is born on spreading branches ( See picture inset). The oblong or ellipsodial green fruits will turn black when ripe.

Typical clustering habit of the Pinang Lakka ( Cyrtostachys renda) or commonly called Red Sealing Wax Palm.

There are a half-dozen of these stunning clumps around in the garden. Two varieties can be found here are the scarlet and orange ones. I have been successful in propagating the tree from seeds last year though this method takes a longer period because the seeds will produce shoots in about 2-3 months time. Alternatively I grow them from splitting the adventurous sucker roots ( plantlets) and success is almost guaranteed. This palm is excellent for road medians, roundabouts, golf courses and even residential homes. It is very hardy and can be transplanted easily. In its natural habitat it grows exclusively in peaty swamps but for ornamental experimentation many landscapers and garden enthusiasts have in Sarawak and Malaysia planted them on clayey soils with no apparent growth problem. Today the palm remains a standard among landscapers who need to create that tropical exotic look. The palm is sometimes referred to as 'Red Sealing Wax' palm due to its red wax obtained from boiling the red petioles which are then used for imprinting a seal on documents and letters. In Sarawak it is also called Pinang Rajah short for 'Maharajah' meaning ruler in Malay. The palm can be grown in large pots or jars but needs heavy watering.

Natalie W. Uhl & John Dransfield (1987) Genera Palmarium, Allan Press, Kansas.

Dr. Paul P.K. Chai & Sylvester S.L. Liew (1988) Selected Plants for Town and Country Beautification in Sarawak, Ministry of Environment and Tourism, Sarawak.

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