Fifty-five and fabulous! A talipot blooms at Lyon Arboretum

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Raedelle Van Fossen, (808) 988-0461
Education Manager, Lyon Arboretum
Rebecca Beralas, (808) 988-0461
Education and Outreach Assistant, Lyon Arboretum
Posted: Nov 30, 2017

Talipot palm at Lyon Arboretum.
Talipot palm at Lyon Arboretum.
The talipot bloom up close.
The talipot bloom up close.

Walk up the trail to the Rain Shelter at Lyon Arboretum and look up. On the top of one of the giant palms next to the shelter, you will see a magnificent flowering stem (known as an inflorescence) made up of a million tiny flowers on the talipot palm (Corypha umbraculifera). Take a picture of it while you are there. The talipot palm is monocarpic, meaning that it will face an impending death after the plant flowers and fruits.  

Native to India and Sri Lanka, the talipot has the largest inflorescence in the world at an average of up to 26 feet (8 meters) tall. The leaves are also impressive with a span up to 16 feet (5 meters) wide. One interesting fact is that the leaves were used in ancient India to write on for religious documents. The writing was done using an iron stylus that cuts into the cuticle of the leaf, leaving the lettering behind.

Talipot palms will flower only once and can do so from when they are 30 to 80 years old. The one currently in bloom at Lyon is 55 years old and was acquired by the arboretum from Foster Botanical Garden in 1962. Lyon’s talipot is estimated to be about 70 feet (21 meters) from its base to the bottom of the inflorescence. The inflorescence itself is about 18 feet (5.5 meters).

Lyon Arboretum, a research unit of the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, is open to the public Mondays to Fridays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. It is closed on Sundays and holidays. Be sure to first sign in at the Visitor Center and pick up a special informational brochure and map to the talipot. 

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