Scientific name: Salacca affinis
Common name: Red snake fruit
Origin: Indonesia and Malaysia
The bright red fruits have shiny scales and thus resemble snakeskin. They contain edible flesh that tastes sweet, but is at the same time slightly acidic and aromatic. The taste is sweeter than the better-known common snake fruit (Salacca zalacca), which makes this species more popular, but also harder to find due to its rarity. It is a palm from the humid rainforests of Indonesia and Malaysia where it is mainly found in swampy areas. The leaves can grow up to 3 metres high and are covered on the stem with sharp, up to 10 cm long spines. The inflorescence forms close to the ground and can grow up to 1 metre long. Eventually, after pollination, up to 50 fruits can be formed, measuring about 8 cm.
The plant can be kept as a houseplant and already at a young age the decorative spines are formed. Provide a well-drained soil with organic matter and water the plant regularly. If humidity is low, you can spray the leaves with water and, in addition, it is important to provide a light location without direct sunlight.
Sowing description: The already germinated seed can be sown directly in well-drained soil with organic material. Keep soil constantly moist and set well warm (22-28grC) for initial development.
Sowing time: Year-round
Minimum temperature: 12 degrees Celsius
Classifications and Characteristics
|Angiosperms (Flowering Seed Plants)
|Plant Growth Form
|Palm (Cluster Palm)
|Peninsular Malaysia, Singapore, to Sumatra, and Borneo
|Terrestrial (Primary Rainforest)
|Preferred Climate Zone
|Local Conservation Status
|Native to Singapore (Critically Endangered (CR))
Description and Ethnobotany
|It is a clustering, understorey palm, up to 3 m tall. The stems are short and stout, and occasionally appear stemless. Its numerous large, pinnate leaves are arranged in a dense rosette.
|Its spirally arranged, stalked, spreading leaves are 3–4 m long, pinnate with oblong leaflets in clusters, and evenly spaced in a single plane on each side of the rachis. The leaflets are about 30–40 cm long, green, oblong, with curving sides, and a pointed tip. The back of the rachis is covered with long spines.
|Its inflorescences are erect, with male flower spikes about 2.5–6.4 cm, borne solitarily or in groups of 2–3, are thinly wooly, and subtended by a 10–18 cm long spathe (modified leaf). The female inflorescences are branched, 5–8 cm long, bearing small, scattered, alternate short spikes with about 3 flowers each.
|Its reddish-brown fruits are scaly, smooth and round, tapering at the tip and base, and about 2.5 cm in diameter.
|Malay salak, the vernacular name for Salacca zalacca, a commonly consumed palm fruit; Latin affinis, related or similar to, probably referring to the plant’s similarity to Salacca zalacca.
|Edible Plant Parts (Edible Fruits)
|It may be suitable for parks but the spiny leaves must be noted, so where it is planted must take this danger into account.
|Desirable Plant Features
|Parks & Gardens
Fauna, Pollination and Dispersal
Plant Care and Propagation
|Lots of Water
|Mature Foliage Colour(s)
Fruit, Seed and Spore
|Mature Fruit Colour(s) – Angiosperms and Gymnosperms