Invasive Species Compendium

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Datasheet

Nypa fruticans
(nipa palm)

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Datasheet

Nypa fruticans (nipa palm)

Summary

  • Last modified
  • 27 September 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Pest
  • Host Plant
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Nypa fruticans
  • Preferred Common Name
  • nipa palm
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Monocotyledonae
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • The spread of nipa in the coastal zones of Nigeria threatens the mangrove vegetation of the zone by outcompeting and displacing the native mangrove species, thereby lowering biodiversity as well as affecting people's livelihoods through reduced fish...

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Pictures

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PictureTitleCaptionCopyright
Nipa palm (N. fruticans), Kelantan, Malaysia.
TitleTree
CaptionNipa palm (N. fruticans), Kelantan, Malaysia.
CopyrightDavid J. Greathead
Nipa palm (N. fruticans), Kelantan, Malaysia.
TreeNipa palm (N. fruticans), Kelantan, Malaysia.David J. Greathead
N. fruticans: 1, habit; 2, inflorescence; 3, infructescence.

Reproduced from the series 'Plant Resources of South-East Asia', by kind permission of the PROSEA Foundation, Bogor, Indonesia.
TitleLine drawing
CaptionN. fruticans: 1, habit; 2, inflorescence; 3, infructescence. Reproduced from the series 'Plant Resources of South-East Asia', by kind permission of the PROSEA Foundation, Bogor, Indonesia.
CopyrightPROSEA Foundation
N. fruticans: 1, habit; 2, inflorescence; 3, infructescence.

Reproduced from the series 'Plant Resources of South-East Asia', by kind permission of the PROSEA Foundation, Bogor, Indonesia.
Line drawingN. fruticans: 1, habit; 2, inflorescence; 3, infructescence. Reproduced from the series 'Plant Resources of South-East Asia', by kind permission of the PROSEA Foundation, Bogor, Indonesia. PROSEA Foundation

Identity

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Nypa fruticans Wurmb

Preferred Common Name

  • nipa palm

Other Scientific Names

  • Cocos nypa Lour.
  • Nipa fruticans Thunb.
  • Nipa litoralis Blanco
  • Nypa arborescens Wurmb ex H. Wendl.

International Common Names

  • English: mangrove palm; nipa
  • French: palmier d'eau; palmier nipa

Local Common Names

  • Bangladesh: golpata
  • Cambodia: chak
  • Germany: Atappalme
  • Indonesia: bobo; buyuk; nipah
  • Myanmar: dane
  • Nigeria: ayamatangh; ayangmbakara
  • Papua New Guinea: biri-biri
  • Philippines: lasa; sasa
  • Vietnam: duwfa las; duwfa nuwowsc

EPPO code

  • NYAFR (Nypa fruticans)

Summary of Invasiveness

Top of page The spread of nipa in the coastal zones of Nigeria threatens the mangrove vegetation of the zone by outcompeting and displacing the native mangrove species, thereby lowering biodiversity as well as affecting people's livelihoods through reduced fish catch and reduced collection of shellfish.

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Plantae
  •         Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •             Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •                 Class: Monocotyledonae
  •                     Order: Arecales
  •                         Family: Arecaceae
  •                             Genus: Nypa
  •                                 Species: Nypa fruticans

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

Top of page With its prostrate, dichotomously branched stem and its erect inflorescence bearing a terminal head of female flowers and lateral spikes of male flowers, Nypa fructicans, the nipa palm, occupies a unique position in the Palmae. It is considered an advanced palm species, with a very long history; possible relations with the genera Pandanus and Sararanga (both from the Pandanaceae) have been suggested. In South-East Asia, the size of the nipa palm varies: in the Philippines plants are smaller than in Papua New Guinea and Malaysia. In Malaysia, two forms of nipa palms are distinguished, 'nipah gala' and 'nipah padi', differing in the tilt of the leaflets. No cultivars have been developed.

Description

Top of page A large, creeping, unarmed, pleonanthic, monoecious palm. Stem prostrate or subterranean (rhizome), up to 45 cm in diameter, branching dichotomously at regular intervals, with curved leaf scars above, and roots along the underside. Erect shoots arise from each rhizome branch. Each shoot has a tuft of 3-5 leaves at any time, the leaves erect, 4.5-14.2 m long, simply pinnate; petiole very stout, up to 1.5 m long, channeled adaxially, terete distally, dilated towards the base into a short sheath; leaflets up to 163 per leaf, linear, single-fold, 1.2-1.5 m x 6.5-8.6 cm, coriaceous, midrib bearing appressed brown scales on lower surface. Inflorescence solitary, interfoliar, erect, branched, multibracteate, protogynous, up to 2.1 m long with a stout, terete, up to 2.4 m long peduncle; rachis usually shorter than the peduncle, terete, terminating in a globose head of female flowers surrounded by numerous, short, catkin-like rachillas (spikes) terminating the lateral branches and bearing densely crowded, spirally arranged, solitary male flowers, most branches subtended by large, tubular, rubbery bracts protecting flowers and fruits; male spikes usually in pairs, cylindrical, often slightly curved, up to about 5 cm long; flowers extremely dimorphic but six perianth parts similar for both sexes; male flowers with three stamens, filaments united into a column, without pistillodes; female flowers without staminodes; carpels (pistils) 3, distinct, much longer than perianth, irregularly polyhedric, curved and angled, with a funnel-shaped stylar opening. Fruiting head subglobose, up to 40 cm in diameter, fertile and partially developed fruits intermixed; fruit a drupe, developing from carpel, compressed and irregularly angled, pyramidal, 10-15 x 6-8 cm, brown to blackish, exocarp smooth, mesocarp fibrous, endocarp thick and composed of interwoven fibrous strands. Seed broadly ovoid, grooved adaxially, hilum basal, endosperm homogeneous. Germination is on the infructescence (viviparous), with the plumule exserted and pushing the fruit away; eophyll bifid or with several leaflets.

Plant Type

Top of page Aquatic
Perennial
Seed propagated
Vegetatively propagated
Woody

Distribution

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Nipa palm is one of the oldest angiosperm plants and probably the oldest palm species. Eocene and Miocene fossils in Europe, North America and the Middle East and the Paleocene strata in Brazil suggest that nipa palm had a pantropical distribution 13-63 million years ago. Today it is mainly found in the equatorial zone, 10°N-10°S, stretching from Sri Lanka through South-East Asia to North Australia. The largest natural nipa stands are found in Indonesia (700,000 ha), Papua New Guinea (500,000 ha) and the Philippines (8000 ha). The northernmost natural occurrence is on the Ryukyu Islands of Japan and the southernmost in North Australia. In South-East Asia, nipa palm is also cultivated.

It was introduced to West Africa in the beginning of the 20th century and is found in Nigeria and in northern Cameroon as far south as the southern side of the Wouri Estuary (Burns et al., 2002).

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Continent/Country/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasivePlantedReferenceNotes

Asia

BangladeshWidespreadNative Not invasive Faizuddin et al., 2000
CambodiaPresentNativePlanted, Natural
IndiaPresentNativePlanted, Natural
-West BengalWidespreadNative Not invasive Das et al., 1995
IndonesiaPresentNativePlanted, Natural
-KalimantanWidespreadNative Not invasive Sukanda, 1995
-SumatraWidespread Not invasive Kusmana, 1991; Tinambunan, 1992
JapanPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-Ryukyu ArchipelagoWidespreadNative Not invasive Natural Nakazato et al., 1996
LaosPresentNative Natural
MalaysiaPresentNativePlanted, Natural
-SabahPresentNative Not invasive Boonratana, 2000
MyanmarPresentNative
PhilippinesPresentNativePlanted, Natural
Sri LankaPresentNative Natural
ThailandPresentNativePlanted, Natural
VietnamPresentNativePlanted, Natural

Africa

CameroonPresentIntroduced Invasive Saenger and Bellan, 1995; Burns et al., 2002
NigeriaRestricted distributionIntroduced Invasive Ukpong, 1995; Obot et al., 1997; Ukpong, 2000

Oceania

AustraliaPresentNative Natural
-Australian Northern TerritoryPresentNative
-QueenslandPresentNative
Papua New GuineaPresentPlanted, Natural

History of Introduction and Spread

Top of page Nipa was introduced into West Africa in the early 1900s, specifically, Oron 4.8°N 8.2°E (Nigeria) in 1906 and Calabar (Nigeria) in 1912 (Hutchinson and Dalziel, 1972). It has now spread westwards along the coast down to latitude 4°E. By the early 1990s, nipa had been recognized as a serious invasive 'weed' (see King, 1999). Other oral sources relate that nipa was introduced to check coastal erosion and that it enjoyed total protection by law. There are anecdotal accounts from Nigeria that people were prosecuted and imprisoned by the colonial administration for as much cutting a frond of the palm.

Risk of Introduction

Top of page The plant spreads mainly through its fruits floating on water currents to new locations. However, there is the real danger of people carrying the fruits while on a casual visit to the beach and then dropping them at other susceptible sites. The probability of intentional introduction as an ornamental is also very high.

Habitat

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Nipa palm is a tropical plant. The average minimum temperature in its growing areas is 20°C and the maximum 32-35°C. Its optimum climate is subhumid to humid with more than 100 mm rainfall per month throughout the year.

Nipa palm thrives only in a brackish water environment. It is rarely seen directly on the seashore. Optimum conditions are when the base and the rhizome of the palm are regularly inundated by brackish water. For this reason, nipa palm occupies estuarine tidal floodplains of rivers. The optimum salt concentration is 1-9 per mil. Nipa palm swamp soils are muddy and rich in alluvial silt, clay and humus

Habitat List

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CategoryHabitatPresenceStatus
Littoral
Coastal areas Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial-managed
Disturbed areas Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Urban / peri-urban areas Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial-natural/semi-natural
Natural forests Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Wetlands Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)

Biology and Ecology

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Growth and Development

After maturing, the fruits are usually pushed off from the infructescence by the developing plumule. They float on tidal water and start growing on a suitable substrate. The radicle is probably aborted and the first root that appears is likely to be the first adventitious root. The seedling is prostrate first, but after being attached to the substrate, the plumule becomes erect and additional adventitious roots arise from the lower part of the stem. In very young seedlings the leaves are arranged distichously but later they become arranged spirally. At first, up to eight bladeless sheaths develop per plant, followed by the first juvenile foliage leaves 3-6 months after germination. During early growth the stem grows obliquely downwards until it is about 1 m deep in the ground (rhizome). About 1 year after germination the rhizome starts branching dichotomously and a new shoot develops vegetatively on each branch. Nipa is a prostrate palm and its growth habit is very similar to grasses. This branching pattern gives rise to the nipa palm 'colony' structure of a mature stand, in which older rhizome parts decay simultaneously and dichotomous divisions produce new shoots. There is also a constant decay of old leaves and formation of new ones throughout the life of a nipa palm, which is estimated to be about 50 years. First flowering occurs 3-4 years after germination. Pollination is effected by flies. In a mature nipa palm stand, normally about one-quarter to one-half of the palms produce flowers or fruits. The fruits mature in 5-9 months. In young fruits the endosperm is liquid, becoming solid in older ones. Frequently, more than one infructescence develops simultaneously per plant. In Papua New Guinea, the weight of one infructescence is 6-30 kg and its circumference 1.1-1.4 m, bearing 88-133 individual fruits.

Other Botanical Information

In South-East Asia, the size of the nipa palm varies: in the Philippines plants are smaller than in Papua New Guinea and Malaysia. In Malaysia, two forms of nipa palms are distinguished, 'nipah gala' and 'nipah padi', differing in the tilt of the leaflets. No cultivars have been developed.

With its prostrate, dichotomously branched stem and its erect inflorescence bearing a terminal head of female flowers and lateral spikes of male flowers, nipa palm occupies a unique position in the Palmae. It has a very long history; possible relations with the genera Pandanus and Sararanga (both from the Pandanaceae) have been suggested.

Ecology

Nipa palm is a tropical plant. The average minimum temperature in its growing areas is 20°C and the maximum 32-35°C. Its optimum climate is subhumid to humid with more than 100 mm rainfall per month throughout the year.

Nipa palm thrives only in a brackish water environment. It is rarely seen directly on the seashore. Optimum conditions are when the base and the rhizome of the palm are regularly inundated by brackish water. For this reason, nipa palm occupies estuarine tidal floodplains of rivers. The optimum salt concentration is 1-9 per mil. Nipa palm swamp soils are muddy and rich in alluvial silt, clay and humus; they have a high content of various inorganic salts, calcium, and sulphides of iron and manganese, contributing to the typical odour and dark colour. The pH is around 5; oxygen content is low with the exception of the topmost layers.

Typically, nipa palm forms pure stands, but in some areas it grows mixed with other mangrove trees. In the understorey some Acanthus, Acrostichum and Crinum species are found.

Latitude/Altitude Ranges

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Latitude North (°N)Latitude South (°S)Altitude Lower (m)Altitude Upper (m)
25 -15 0 200

Air Temperature

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Parameter Lower limit Upper limit
Absolute minimum temperature (ºC) 23 0
Mean annual temperature (ºC) 24 35
Mean maximum temperature of hottest month (ºC) 33 35
Mean minimum temperature of coldest month (ºC) 24 27

Rainfall

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ParameterLower limitUpper limitDescription
Dry season duration13number of consecutive months with <40 mm rainfall
Mean annual rainfall1004000mm; lower/upper limits

Soil Tolerances

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Soil drainage

  • impeded

Soil reaction

  • acid

Soil texture

  • heavy
  • medium

Special soil tolerances

  • infertile
  • saline

Means of Movement and Dispersal

Top of page There are two principal modes of spread. The first and more important is movement of water via ocean current and tide; the other is by humans carrying the fruits. Tidal movement has been largely responsible for the infestation of inland rivers and creeks in the Niger Delta, Nigeria. Tidal movements transport the fruits to the near-shore whereas the longshore current moves the fruits generally westwards.

Impact Summary

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CategoryImpact
Animal/plant collections None
Animal/plant products None
Biodiversity (generally) Negative
Crop production Negative
Environment (generally) Negative
Fisheries / aquaculture Negative
Forestry production Negative
Human health None
Livestock production None
Native fauna Negative
Native flora Negative
Rare/protected species Negative
Tourism None
Trade/international relations None
Transport/travel None

Impact

Top of page Nipa impacts negatively on fish catch and shellfish collection. It also impacts negatively on rural navigation in coastal waters.

Environmental Impact

Top of page Nipa threatened Nigeria's extensive mangrove vegetation by displacing the mangrove stands and establishing itself in a mono-specific manner. It reduces the potential for natural mechanisms for control of coastal soil erosion and causes general habitat conversion and biodiversity loss with attendant reduction in biological production potentials of the ecosystem.

Impact: Biodiversity

Top of page Being prostrate and gregarious, nipa outcompetes and 'crowds out' other woody mangrove species. In alien invasive conditions, this leads to a loss in biodiversity.

Social Impact

Top of page Local people depend, often disproportionately on biodiversity for their life support. Loss of biodiversity due to the invasion of plants such as nipa forces migrations and the search for new livelihoods thereby distorting the social structure of the communities.

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Invasiveness
  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • Highly adaptable to different environments
  • Highly mobile locally
  • Has high reproductive potential
Impact outcomes
  • Damaged ecosystem services
  • Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
  • Negatively impacts human health
  • Negatively impacts tourism
  • Reduced amenity values
  • Reduced native biodiversity
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately
  • Difficult/costly to control

Uses

Top of page In South-East Asia, there is a long tradition (hundreds of years) of using palm sap obtained by tapping the inflorescence stalks (peduncle) as a source of treacle (molasses), amorphous sugar ('gula malacca'), alcohol or vinegar. The slightly fermented sap called 'toddy' ('nera' in Indonesia and Malaysia, 'tuba' in the Philippines) is sold and consumed as local beer. In Papua New Guinea, there is no tradition of using the sap. The long, pinnate leaves (fronds) provide material for thatching houses. In the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand the fabrication of thatching panels, called locally 'shingles', 'pawid' or 'atap', is a significant local source of income. Leaflets and midribs are used for manufacturing of brooms, baskets, mats and sunhats. The white endosperm of immature seeds is sweet and jelly-like, and is consumed as a snack. The cuticle of young, unfurled leaves has locally been used as cigarette wrapping. Various parts of nipa palm are a source of traditional medicines (e.g. juice from young shoots is used against herpes, ash of burned nipa material against toothache and headaches) and material for salt extraction. Some early trials to use the endocarp of mature fruits, called 'plant ivory', for the manufacture of buttons failed because they were vulnerable to attack by fungi, and have largely been replaced by plastic materials. The use of the hard shell (mesocarp) in the making of buttons, necklaces and other fashion apparels is successful in Nigeria. Nipa fronds are commomly used as sails by local fishermen.

Uses List

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Fuels

  • Miscellaneous fuels

Human food and beverage

  • Food additive
  • Sugar

Materials

  • Fibre

Medicinal, pharmaceutical

  • Source of medicine/pharmaceutical

Wood Products

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Textiles

Woodware

  • Brushes
  • Industrial and domestic woodware
  • Toys
  • Wood carvings

Prevention and Control

Top of page Cultural Control

In Nigeria, no cultural control has been attempted.

Mechanical Control

Mechanical control involving repeated (three passes) cutting has been successful in the Niger Delta, Nigeria. Plant fronds are cut back three times. The recommended period between each cutting, to assure maximum effectiveness, is 6 weeks. In highly inaccessible locations, the cutting interval may be extended to an absolute maximum of 3 months; beyond this the plants will recover. The equipment used is a regular machete; chainsaws were also used but the increase in operational costs was not justified.

Chemical Control

Chemical control has not been attempted in Nigeria but some local people have reported limited success when the plant is treated with used engine oil. This is hardly recommended in view of the potential polluting effects.

Biological Control

There are no known natural enemies in the West African (Nigerian) population. No biological control has been attempted in West Africa.

References

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Boonratana R, 2000. A study of the vegetation of the forests in the lower Kinabatangan region, Sabah, Malaysia. Malayan Nature Journal, 54(4):271-288.

Burns MER, Ashton PJ, Dunkley E, Hughes S, Nguene F, Le Maitre D, 2002. Environmental Impact Assessment of Exploration Drilling Activities by Phillips Petroleum Co. Cameroon: Block Ph-77, Cameroon. Draft Report ENV-S-C 2002-038, submitted to: Phillips Petroleum Co. Cameroon by CSIR Environmentek, Stellenbosch, South Africa.

Das PK, Chakravarti V, Dutta A, Maity S, 1995. Leaf anatomy and chlorophyll estimates in some mangroves. Indian Forester, 121(4):289-294; 4 ref.

Davis TA, 1986. Nipa palm in Indonesia: a source of unlimited food and energy. Indonesian Agricultural Research and Development Journal, 8:38-44.

Dennett JH, 1927. Alcohol fuel and the nipah palm. A popular outline. Malayan Agricultural Journal, 15:443-445.

Effendi H, 1997. Technical evaluation on tapping system of Nypa fructicans L. Berita - Pusat Penelitian Perkebunan Gula Indonesia, No. 19:52-54; 3 ref.

Faizuddin M, Rahman MM, Shahidullah M, Helalsiddiqui ASM, Hasnin M, Rashid MH, 2000. Survival and growth performance of golpata (Nypa fruticans) in the newly accreted sites of the Sundarbans of Bangladesh. Bangladesh Journal of Forest Science, 29(2):79-84.

Fong FW, 1986. Studies on the population structure, growth dynamics and resource importance of nipa palm (Nypa fruticans Wurmb). PhD thesis, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Hamilton LS, Murphy DH, 1988. Use and management of nipa palm (Nypa fruticans, Arecaceae): a review. Economic Botany, 42(2):206-213; 54 ref.

Hutchinson J, Dalziel JM, 1972. Flora of West Tropical Africa. Volume 3. 2nd edition. London, UK: Crown Agents.

King RP, 1999. Review of nipa palm utilization project in Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria. Unpublished consultancy report to the Nigerian Conservation Foundation. Lagos, Nigeria: Nigerian Conservation Foundation, Lekki Conservation Centre.

Kusmana C, 1990. Soil as a factor influencing the mangrove forest communities in Talidendang Besar, Riau. BIOTROPIA-1991, No. 4, 9-18; 18 ref.

Nakazato N, Hanashiro Y, Goto K, 1996. Study on the Nypa fruticans Wurmb. in Okinawa. I. The present state of the natural growth. Proceedings of Faculty of Agriculture, Kyushu Tokai University, No. 15, 49-54; With English figures and tables; 5 ref.

Obot EA, Oduwaiye EA, Oyeleye B, 1997. Effect of mangrove environment on species regeneration, density and growth. Environment and resource development. Proceedings of the 25th Annual Conference of the Forestry Association of Nigeria held in Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria, 22nd-26th September 1997, 249-256.

Päivöke A, Adams MR, Twiddy DR, 1984. Nipa palm vinegar in Papua New Guinea. Process Biochemistry, 19:84-87.

Päivöke AEA, 1985. Tapping practices and sap yields of the nipa palm (Nipa fruticans) in Papua New Guinea. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment, 13:59-72.

Saenger P, Bellan MF, 1995. The mangrove vegetation of the Atlantic coast of Africa. A review. Toulouse, France: Laboratoire d’Ecologie Terrestre, Centre Nationale De La Recherche Scientifique, Université de Toulouse.

Sukanda, 1995. Utilization and tapping technique of nypa forest (Nypa fructicans) in Batu Ampar West Kalimantan. [Cara pengusahaan hutan nipah (Nypa fructicans) di Batu Ampar Kalimantan Barat.] Jurnal Penelitian Hasil Hutan, 13(4):153-161; English figures and tables.; 6 ref.

Tinambunan D, 1992. Thatch palm utilization and its problems. [Pengusahaan nipah dan permasalahannya.] Jurnal Penelitian Hasil Hutan, 10(6):227-234; English tables and figures.; 8 ref.

Uhl NW, Dransfield, J, 1987. Genera palmarum. The LH Bailey Hortorium and The International Palm Society. Lawrence, USA: Allen Press, 285-288.

Ukpong IE, 1995. An ordination study of mangrove swamp communities in West Africa. Vegetatio, 116(2):147-159; 22 ref.

Ukpong IE, 2000. Ecological classification of Nigerian mangroves using soil nutrient gradient analysis. Wetlands Ecology and Management. 8(4):263-272.

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