JOHNSON, SUSANNAH B. Dept. Animal & Range Sci., MSC Box 3-I, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, NM 88003. - An ethnobotanical study in Tamil Nadu, India, of Phoenix humilis and Borassus flabellifer (Arecaceae), focusing on their combined use in the construction of brooms.
Phoenix humilis, commonly known as the Dwarf Date Palm or the Hill
Date Palm, is native to India and is found throughout the country in
hilly regions. The variety studied in this report, Phoenix humilis
var. pedunculata, grows at about 2,000 m in the Western Ghats Mountain
Range. The fruits are sweet and edible and the pith of the stem can be
eaten and juiced. The leaves are used in the construction of mats,
baskets, handbags, brooms, and cordage. Borassus flabellifer, which is
thought to have originated from Africa, is commonly known as the
Palmyra Palm. The edible fruit contains 3 nut-like portions, each of
which encloses a seed. The sweet sap of the palm is fermented to make
toddy, a popular alcoholic beverage. The sap is also used medicinally
and can be made into a granulated sugar. The leaves and petioles are
used for thatching, matting, making baskets, hats, boxes, and rope.
The leaves of P. humilis and B. flabellifer are used in the
construction of brooms in Chavidi Pudor, a village in the western part
of Tamil Nadu, India. The leaves of P. humilis are gathered and dried
in the mountains near the village and the petioles of B. flabellifer
are purchased from men who climb the palms to collect. The brooms are
constructed in Chavidi Pudor and are then sold in nearby villages and
in the city, Coimbitore.
Key words: Borassus flabellifer, ethnobotany, Phoenix humilis