A salak palm, once thought to be lost to Singapore…


This is Salacca affinis. It was thought to be extinct but I accidentally stumbled onto it while taking pictures of rattans. This local salak is a relative of the scaly buah salak that is eaten.

This salak is a palm of the peat swamps and has fronds that tower above our heads. At Nee Soon Swamp Forest, there is a cousin of this palm called Eleiodoxa conferta and looks much like it that dominates the wet swampy understorey. It was this other species that really caught my eye with its beautiful spines. See this picture.

Eleiodoxa conferta

This species can form a stand in the swamp and so it was really fortunate that I stumbled onto the salak. It was one among the many other Eleiodoxa palms in the swamp. The differences between the two are not apparent at first but the key thing is the arrangement of the lamina (leaf blades) of the fronds. Eleiodoxa has a flat frond due to the arrangment of the leaflets (so basically the leafs look like that of a coconut tree). Salacca affinis has a frond with clumped leaflets are regular intervals and the leaflets at each clump fan out. The spines also can be used to differentiate the two immediately. Eleiodoxa has those strikingly beautiful spines arranged like a comb around the leaf stalk.

Nee Soon Swamp is precious – things are still being discovered/rediscovered in this highly threatened habitat by the plant and animal research groups in NUS and NParks.

More details over here – Rediscovery in Singapore of Salacca affinis Griff. (Arecaceae). Nature in Singapore, 4: 123–126. [ PDF , 300 KB]

Accessible from volume 4 of Nature in Singapore: http://rmbr.nus.edu.sg/nis/bulletin2011.html


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