Raphia sudanica

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Raphia (rahf-EE-ah)
sudanica (soo-dahn-EE-kah)
Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, Florida. Photo by Dr. John Dransfield, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew/Palmweb.
Scientific Classification
Genus: Raphia (rahf-EE-ah)
sudanica (soo-dahn-EE-kah)
None set.
Native Continent
Habit: Clustering
Leaf type: Pinnate
Survivability index
Common names
Northern Rafia Palm, Dwarf Raphia Palm.

Habitat and Distribution

Native to: Benin; Burkina Faso; Côte d'Ivoire; Gambia; Ghana; Guinea; Mali; Nigeria;
Forret de Lera, Burkina Faso. Photo by Dr. P. Tuley, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew/Palmweb.
Senegal; Sierra Leone. Plant distributed widely in West tropical Africa (Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone). Swampy ground in savanna, wet ground, by rivers often forming thickets. (IUCN Red List)

Raphia sudanica is distributed from Senegal and Gambia eastwards to northern Nigeria. Plantations have been established in Nigeria. Raphia sudanica occurs in freshwater swamps and riverine forest in the savanna zone. It tolerates drier conditions than other Raphia spp. It is always gregarious and locally abundant, forming dense thickets. (PROTA)


Monoecious palm, often clustering; trunk 2–3 (–10) m tall, stout, with irregular rings and covered with persistent leaf bases. Leaves pinnate, erect, up to 12 m long, sheathing at the base, glaucous-green; petiole relatively short, unarmed; rachis stout, unarmed, orange-yellow, later grey; leaflets linear-lanceolate, 50–75 cm long, stiff, single-fold, acuminate at the apex, lower surface waxy, margins and back of the midvein armed with straight, black spines about 5 mm long. Inflorescence axillary, up to 2.5 m long, dense, branched to 2 orders; first order branches about 20 cm long, with large, papery bracts holding flowering branchlets 3–4 cm long. Flowers unisexual; male flowers with calyx tubular and 3-lobed, petals long and narrow, sharply pointed, not thickened near the tip, stamens 10–12(–18), inserted on the corolla, filaments fused for half their length; female flowers with thin outer bracteole enclosing the calyx and corolla, and inner bracteole about half as long as calyx, calyx 3-lobed, slightly fimbriate, corolla cup-shaped for half its length, with 3 lobes, staminodes 9 (–18), in a short ring, ovary superior. Fruit obovoid, 5–8 cm × about 4.5 cm, with a blunt beak 4–8 mm long, covered with scales in (8–) 9–10 (–11) longitudinal rows; scales reddish or yellowish, with brown margins; mesocarp yellow. Seed ovoid, testa wrinkled and warty. (PROTA), Editing by edric.

A palm of swamping land in savanna country of the Sudan zone, often forming a thickets, with a stout trunk usually 6-10 feet but up to 25 feet high, and easily recognizable by its stiff, rather upright, leaves. (IUCN Red List)


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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