Jubaeopsis caffra

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Jubaeopsis (joo-beh-OHP-sis)
caffra (KAHF-frah)
South Africa. Photo by Dr. M.D. Ferrero/Palmweb.
Scientific Classification
Genus: Jubaeopsis (joo-beh-OHP-sis)
caffra (KAHF-frah)
None set.
Native Continent
Habit: Clustering, often solitary.
Leaf type: Pinnate
Survivability index
Common names
Kafir Palm, Pondoland Palm, Pondo Coconut, Mkambati Palm, Pondopalm (Afr.); ikomba (isiXhosa).

Habitat and Distribution

Cape Provinces, and KwaZulu-Natal. Exposed coastal hillsides of Pondoland,
Transkei District, EC, South Africa. Photo by qgrobler
South Africa, and around the lower reaches of the Mtentu, Msikaba, and Mzintlava rivers. grows naturally on the banks of two rivers, only one in a protected area, in the Eastern Cape. In cultivation, it is occasionally seen on the south coast of KwaZulu-Natal, as far north as Durban. As it is restricted in nature to Natal-group Sandstone, it must be considered to be one of several trees only known from the Pondoland Centre of Endemism.


Palm to 5 (–8) m tall. Bark grey, rough, adhering. Stems round, unarmed. Leaves alternate, pinnate, 3–4 m long; petioles 400–600 mm long, hairless. Leaflet blade 250–500 mm long, 8–26 mm wide, linear; apices narrowly pointed; surface glossy; veins hairless; margin without teeth. Inflorescence an axillary, erect panicle. Pedicels 0. Perianth consisting of a calyx and corolla. Flower radially symmetrical. Petals and sepals unequal in size. Calyx of 3 free, triangular, creamy sepals. Corolla of 3 free, ovate, white or creamy to green petals, without markings. Plants with separate male and female flowers, arranged with two males flanking each female. Stamens (7–) 8–16. Ovary superior, 3-locular. Styles 3. Fruit a round, hairless berry 20–40 mm long, 20–42 mm in diameter; rind smooth, leathery, orange. Seeds dark brown. Editing by edric.


Likes a sunny, well drained position, with ground water. Very slow growing. Seeds are difficult to germinate, although more success is being gained by just covering the seeds with moist sphagnum moss.

In view of the limited natural population, which is already threatened by over-exploitation for horticulture, the single most important piece of advice for would-be growers of this palm is DON'T! The tree is protected and there is no legal source of seed. Seedlings are almost certainly raised illegally too, and one should not buy them without written guarantees of permission to possess them.

That said, the tree in the grounds of the KwaZulu-Natal Herbarium makes a very attractive feature of our garden. It evidently likes our warm, moist climate and sandy soil. With the possible exception of the resident weaver birds (see the section on ecology above) and occasional scientists from the University, we have seen no parasites on the tree, and smaller pests and diseases are unknown. It is, however, known that for some reason seeds do not germinate easily, and in experimental plantings in this country germination rates have always been low.

PFC for PP.png

Comments and Curiosities

External Links


Phonetic spelling of Latin names by edric.

Special thanks to Geoff Stein, (Palmbob) for his hundreds of photos.

Special thanks to Palmweb.org, Dr. John Dransfield, Dr. Bill Baker & team, for their volumes of information and photos.

Glossary of Palm Terms; Based on the glossary in Dransfield, J., N.W. Uhl, C.B. Asmussen-Lange, W.J. Baker, M.M. Harley & C.E. Lewis. 2008. Genera Palmarum - Evolution and Classification of the Palms. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. All images copyright of the artists and photographers (see images for credits).

Many Special Thanks to Ed Vaile for his long hours of tireless editing and numerous contributions.

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