In 1919, Scotish Botanist William Roxburgh, who is considered as the father of Indian botany, discovered a very rare palm tree endemic to the Bengal region of India. The palm tree grows around 40 feet tall and the most interesting fact is that is seeds only once in it’s lifetime. It flowers only at around the age of 80 and after seeding it dies. Roxburgh idetified this species as very rare as very few instances of this tree was found in wild. It was also found that the flower structure is extraordinarilly large when it flowers. The palm tree was scientifically named as “Corypha Taliera“. Locally it is known as Tali Palm in the bengal region.
The Talipalm is solitary in nature, gorws moderately but becomes massive in size. It gorws till 80 years without producing a flower. At the end of it’s life, the flowers grow at the top of this tree and the leaves below it slowly dries out. Finally the trunk with millions of golf-ball sized seeds lives on for sometime. The seeds rains down for months producing thousands of saplings. With further studies it revealed this palm tree is really extra-ordinary. It currently hold two records in world’s botanical world. It holds the record of the largest flower structure in the world along with another palm species “Corypha umbraculifera”. The other record is of the largest palmate leaf which is 6 m. (20 ft.) wide.
Due to the Tali Palm’s (Corypha taliera) rare nature, it was not known the local people of Bengal much. In 1979, a Tali Palm tree , located in a village in the Birbhum district of West Bengal, India, had begun flowering. The locals fearing that it was a ‘ghost palm tree’ due to its horn-like flowers. Botanist Shamal Kumar Basu came to know about its existence and tried to motivate local people but failed. Local fearful people chopped it down before the flower could set seed. It was the last known wild specimen of the Palm tree reported in last 30 years. Fortunately, there are some specimens of the tree preserved in the Howrah botanic garden in India.
Shamal Kumar Basu visited Bangladesh in 2001, when he saw the Tali Palm tree in the Dhaka University campus. This tree was identified as of the genus “Corypha” in 1950 by Professor Md. Salar Khan from the Department of Botany,Dhaka University. At that time he failed identify the exact species of the plant but realized it to be a rare species. There were construction going on the University campus, so Khan appealed to the higher autority to take special steps to preserve this tree and not to cut down. Since then the tree was preserved well in the Vice-Chancellor residential quarter. When Botanists visited the campus, he immediately identified it as “Corypha Taliera”. This Tali Palm in the campus became legend as it was the only naturally grown Tali Palm tree known in the world.
In 2010 January, the Tali Palm in the Dhaka University finally flowered and dried out naturally. Some of the seeds were preserved and let others plant naturally. Thousands of tali palm sapling grew naturally under the mother tree and around 500 grown artificially. The effort by various organizations to save this rarest Plam tree brought fruits. Now the saplings are planted in various locations and maintained properly. Some of the seeds from the mother tree were also put on research to find any medicinal value of it. The primary results are exciting as it can be used for the treatment of can be used in curing diseases like typhoid and diarrhoea. It also may be used as anti-ageing but needs to be confirmed yet.
The “IUCN Red List” has listed “Corypha Taliera” as “Extinct from Wild”. But the botanists in Bangladesh and in India are doing good to preserve the saplings. Currently there a number of grown Tali Palm in the Howrah Botanical Garden of India and we will have to wait till these tress become around 80 years old to flower.