Pugahan is a palm, differing from other Caryota species in having many suckers and producing clusters of small-sized palms, up to 7 meters tall. Stems are solitary
or clustered, slender to massive, with conspicuous nodal rings. Petioles,
leaf-sheaths and spathes are scurfily villous. Leaves are 1.2 to 3 meters
long; leaflets are obliquely cuneiform, erose amd toothed; the
upper margin acute. Spadix is scurfy, axillary and pendulous. Male buds are
cylindric; male flowers are small, about 5 millimeters long. Fruit is 10 to 13 millimeters in diameter,
bluish-black when ripe, containing a single globose seed.
- In forests, near streams, at low altitudes in Palawan.
for ornamental pot plants in the Philippines.
- Also occurs in Burma and Indo-China to the Malay Peninsula, Sumatra, Java, and Borneo.
- Fruits, leaves and stems contain various alkaloids.
- Pulp of fruit contains calcium oxalate crystals.
• Pericarp contains
stinging crystals (raphides, needle-shaped crystals of calcium oxalate).
The seeds inside the poisonous fruit are edible after cooking.
• Crystalline needles from the juice of the ripe fruit can cause intense itching within seconds.
• Fibrous hairs of the leaf stalk can cause skin irritation.
• Handling of the berries may cause burning and swelliing of the
lips, buccal cavity and throat. May cause redness and swelliing of the
eyes and skin irritation. Effects are not long lasting.
- Kernels of the fruit and terminal bud are edible but only after processing.
- Seeds inside the poisonous fruit are edible, as is the cabbage, after cooking.
- Stems yield a little starch which the people of Malacca and Borneo use as sago.
- No reported folkloric
medicinal use in the Philippines.
- In Kelantan,
juice of the fruit, mixed with bamboo hairs and extract of toad is considered
a potent poison.
- In Cambodia, soft fibers
at the base of the leaf-sheath use for the cauterization of wounds.
- In Thailand,
for itches, the fruits are boiled in water and the water used for a bath.
- Negrito tribes of Andaman Islands use the young shoots for vomiting and stomachache.
- In Bangladesh,
Roots and fruits used for hemorrhoids, loss of virility, rheumatoid arthritis, and as laxative.
- Toddy: Inflorescence can yield sap which can be consumed fresh (nira) or fermented into toddy, then distilled into an arrack.
- Sugar: Sap can be refined to produce a sugar (jiggery).
• Raphides: Raphides in the mature fruit of the fishtail palm Caryota mitis were shown to be calcium oxalate monohydrate. On contact with intact human skin, an aqueous suspension of the raphids caused an immediate severe itch sensation, probably a mechanic action of the Ca oxalate needles rather than by penetrating toxin or enzyme action of the raphides.
• Antioxidant / Fruits: Among 56 tested wild fruits, Caryot mitis was one of eight that showed the highest total phenolic contents and highest antioxidant activities, and suggested a potential for development of natural antioxidants and functional foods or drugs.