Cumulus Clouds, Wikimedia Commons Contributor
Plant Common Name
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Gigantic, single-trunked palms comprise the genus Corypha, which means "summit" in Greek. This name is appropriate as it refers to the giant tip inflorescences (flower stalks) that culminate the life span of the palm. The eight palm species are evergreen and monocarpic, meaning they die once they flower. They're native to tropical southern and southeastern Asia and northern Australia.
When young, these palms are rather slow-growing, but pick up their pace once the trunk develops. The leaves are beautiful and costapalmate - a rounded leaf with many segments that spread and flair up like a rooster's tail feathers.
It takes two to seven decades for Corypha palms to reach an age to finally produce their branched inflorescences. In fact, the inflorescences are the largest in all the plant kingdom. The flower stalk juts up from the leaf canopy, as much as 15 to 30 feet higher than the palm already is tall at maturity. It looks something like a Christmas tree. Tiny creamy white to pale yellow flowers (in the millions) occur on an inflorescence, and persist over multiple months. After insect pollination, millions of green to brown, one-seeded fruits mature. Once perpetuation of the species is guaranteed with seeds, the mother palm degenerates and dies.
Corypha species are intolerant of frosts and excel in any fertile, moist but well-drained soil. Full to partial sun is needed. Because these palms reach gargantuan sizes and die after producing massive flower stalks, they are not suitable to small landscapes. They typically are grown only in botanical gardens or private estates with adequate equipment and staff to manage their removal after flowering.
Two of the most awe-inspiring species are the talipot palm (Corypha umbraculifera), which is not only massive and beautiful, but has traditional economic importance in southern Asia. The gebang palm (C. utans) is similar in all aspects except it is slightly smaller in all of its physical features.