Amazing Buri Palms…

I have been a huge fan of majestic, imposing, noble buri palms. Also referred to as buli, these impressive, ramrod, palms reach for the sky with these incredible large leaves. Definitely overshadowed by the much more plentiful coconut or other palms, I have always imagined a massive planting of buri palms along say a kilometer long driveway up to my snazzy bahay kubo as the local equivalent of say cypresses on a meandering country road in Italy…

I once scoured the island of Cebu for a source of little palms to transplant, ready to buy the young ones out of people’s back yards or fallow land… and on one trip saw hundreds, but they don’t transplant well, I am told.

For me, their leaves scream the essence of tropical, and just one leaf could shield a family of three from torrential downpours if needed. Native to the Philippines and other Southeast Asian countries and even Northern Australia, I think they are under appreciated and often overlooked in modern landscaping.

I notice they tend to thrive near to the coast or near good ground water sources. But I have seen hundreds of them in inland hill locations as well, and when you see them trimmed back like this one…

…and all the surrounding trees are equally trimmed, that means the community around actively harvest and uses the leave and ribs for various things… they apparently have multiple uses.

Their seeds somehow find their way into crevices and rocks and spawn in the oddest places…

Even growing out of trunks of other trees!

Parts of the ribs of the leaves are used for brooms…

…barbecue sticks and they make the most amazing hats also known as “buntal” that I recall from childhood as my mother was always on the lookout for the finest quality locally made hats…

When a palm dies, they use the wood as firewood. And more importantly they take the pinkish center portion and dry it out and make a kind of buri flour that is baked into kakanins like bibingka. I have long wanted to observe this traditional process, but it has eluded me for years despite sending word out to various barangays to secure an invite to the next flour making session…

Buri brooms up in the small towns of Cebu.

This palm beside our beach house in Batangas. I once visited a wonderful estate in Mindoro where the owner watched amused as my jaws dropped around a pathway leading to a stand of some 30-40+ buri palms some 30 years old, and she said… “we planted this 30 years ago… you have to have vision for a truly spectacular garden” and I knew she was just one special soul…

And here’s the amazing bit of trivia that most people probably don’t know. The palm grows slowly and can live up to say 50+ years, achieving heights of 30-40 meters, then it blooms and sends out hundreds of seeds that some birds pick up and drop elsewhere, and after that single flowering, the majestic tree dies.

While buying the palms and transplanting them have never worked out. The birds and plant Gods have probably conspired to give me what I wished for… as some 20-30 palms are now thriving in our office property where there seemed to be none just 8 years ago. They just took root as nature intended, naturally. I look forward to seeing them achieve great heights and live long after I will…


16 Responses

  1. Thanks for this post MM.

    We bought a baby one in the nursery here in Melbourne and planted in our front yard, thinking it was a nice tropical touch and would not grow so big. Our front yard is small and rather sloping (30-40 degrees?). WE NEVER WATER THIS AREA EVEN IN SUMMER.

    It is now thriving, so much so hubby wants it dead and gone – because it’s thorny, hard to trim.

    If he sees your post, it’s definitely a dead palm. To transplant, I will probably be dead before it.

    Hmmmmm….what to do, what to do….

  2. Wow, this post is greatly appreciated as I learned a lot about buri palm. Bless your heart always MM!

  3. Extracting starch from Buri palm is probably identical to the processing of Sago palm trunk for its starch in this clip (voice over in impeccable English): httpss://

  4. Nice post, as always! Thanks, MM!
    I met someone who owns a palm farm somewhere in Tagaytay or Alfonso, selling the palm trees as his business.

  5. Footloose, thanks for that link… it was fascinating! Exactly what I want to experience for buri flour… The buri flour has a tinge of pink and is made into little starchy balls called landang that are put into guinataan or benignit…

  6. A colonnade of tall palms trees is always impressive as anyone who has visited Southern California or the Jardim Botanico in Rio would attest. Rarer nowadays though are the equally rivetting pandan mature growth formerly ubiquitous anywhere in the tropics. They grow profusely up the mountain top where the colossal Christ the Redeemer stands (in Rio). Aside from their mature fruits that look like Medieval mace, the winding way their foliage spiral is truly eye-catching httpss://, perhaps right up there after the traveller palm httpss:// for pure peacocky presentation.

  7. hi Marketman, try getting a Bismarckia nobilis, its a bit expensive but easy to source here in the philippines, its grows like a buri palm, but it has a silvery- blue hue to its leaves

  8. i never knew barbecue sticks could be made from buri trunks. i always thought they were made solely from bamboo. MM, you have to watch “palagsing” being made. i wonder why the madrid fusion people haven’t discovered it yet.

  9. Landang is what the pinkish center of the trunk is called. My mother has her relatives in Leyte on the lookout for it whenever buri trees are to be cut down in their farm. She has it sent to her when available. I do not care for it so much, but Nanay loves it. It’s the only way to stop me from eating her guinataan. D:

    It’s a really starchy version of sago. I do not agree with the consistency. :/

  10. MM…I think it’s called ‘landang’ not landing….. Ms. Millet, I always feed my craving for palagsing every time I managed to get home, ordering it from husbands hometown five hours away from where we are usually’s my favourite breakfast pair with coffee on vacation days in the country.

  11. Kristin, yes, you are correct, landang, it is the autocorrect spelling that seems to mess things up often. I have previous posts on it as well… thanks.



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