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Caryota urens L. (E. Paternò's Garden, Catania. Photo P. Pavone)

Caryota urens L.

Etymology - Its generic name comes from Greek "karyotis" = date, referred to the date palm by Dioscorides. Its specific name, from Latin "urere" = to wither, refers to a biological characteristic of this genus which dies immediately after it has flowered and fruited.

Area of origin - India, Malaysia.

Botanical description - Monocarpic palm exhibiting an erect single trunk, up to 30 m tall, bearing ringed scars left by fallen leaves. The trunk reaches its maximum height before bloom. Leaves are 3 to 6 m long, bipinnate, bearing wedge-shaped, marginally toothed leaflets somewhat like a fish tail, their size is 10-20 cm by 9-10 cm, their colour dark green. Flowers are unisexual on monoecious plants, alternating on apical, branched inflorescences, enveloped by 2 carinate, marginally fibrous spathes. Fruits, as large as cherries, are globose and reddish.