Hyphaene coriacea

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Hyphaene (high-FEHN-eh)
coriacea (cor-ee-ah-SEH-ah)
Montgomery Botanical Center, Florida. Photo by Dr. William J. Baker, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew/Palmweb.
Scientific Classification
Genus: Hyphaene (high-FEHN-eh)
coriacea (cor-ee-ah-SEH-ah)
None set.
Native Continent
Habit: Solitary & Given to aerial branching.
Leaf type: Costapalmate
Survivability index
Common names
Doum Palm, Ilala Palm, Satrana (Antankarana, Sakalava); Sata (Sakalava, fide Hildebrandt).

Habitat and Distribution

Ethiopia, Kenya, KwaZulu-Natal, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Northern
Madagascar. Photo by Dr. Henk Beentje, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew/Palmweb.
Provinces, Somalia, Tanzania, and West Madagascar. Littoral or inland, in grassland or wooded grassland, especially on sand; slight slope or on the flat; able to withstand fire, and sometimes locally common; alt. 1-300 m. (J. Dransfield and H. Beentje. 1995)/Palmweb.

A common species at low altitudes in the West. This species occurs in continental Africa and some islands between Madagascar and Africa in the same habitat; it is one of the few palms which occurs both in Madagascar and elsewhere, but we believe it is native. (J. Dransfield and H. Beentje. 1995)/Palmweb.


Clustering palm, often seeming solitary, in groups of 2-6. TRUNK 1-6 m high, 10-20 cm in diam., usually unbranched but occasionally branched, clothed in old leaf-bases, with distinctive criss-cross pattern. LEAVES 9-20 in the crown, porrect or spreading with the rachis recurved, to 1.8 m, and to about 9 marcescent ones; sheath open, split at the base for up to 40 cm, 38-40 cm long, waxy, brown, with fibrous margins; petiole 60-97 cm long, proximally 4-6 x about 3 cm, mid-way flattened, about 2 cm wide with black triangular spines to 1 cm long and curved towards the distal end, distally 1-3.5 x 1.5 cm, pale brown, waxy, with scattered scales; adaxial hastula an oblique, erose fringe to 6 mm high; costa 27- 60 cm long; lamina about 70 cm long, 112 cm wide, with 39-55 segments, the sinuses with conspicuous filaments, outer folds 31-48 x 1.2-2.6 cm, divided to the base or unsplit for 2-7 cm, more inner ones to 63-82 x 4-5 cm, unsplit for up to 20 cm, central folds 40-58 x 1.2-4 cm, unsplit for 7-9 cm, main veins 1-2, apices attenuate and bifid over 1-1.5 cm, midrib with dense to scattered dark brown and grey scales, the faint parallel minor veins with scattered reddish scales. STAMINATE INFLORESCENCES interfoliar, branched to 2 orders; rachillae solitary or in groups of 2-4, 9-36 cm long, 0.7-1.2 cm in diam., the rachillar axes waxy and with reddish scales; bracts 2-3 x 3-3.5 mm, densely stellate-hairy. STAMINATE FLOWERS with sepals imbricate, 2.5-3 x 0.8-1.6 mm, narrowly obovate with a rounded apex; corolla greenish, the stalk 1-2 mm high, the lobes 2-2.8 x 1.5-1.8 mm, (slightly) spathulate and hooded, rounded; stamens with filaments 0.8-1.8 mm and thin, connate with their fleshy bases, anthers 1-1.8 x 0.6-0.8 mm, dorsifixed, versatile, yellow; pistillode not seen. PISTILLATE INFLORESCENCES interfoliar, 60-120 cm long, branched to 1 order with 2-5 rachillae, pendulous in fruit; peduncle 43-56 cm long with 4-5 bracts; bracts 17-19 cm long and distally scaly; rachillae with the stalk about 20 cm long, the fertile part 14-21 cm long, 0.8-1.2 mm in diam. PISTILLATE FLOWERS with the rachilla bract about 2 mm high, about 8 mm wide, inside near the base with dense hairs (? from the rachilla); pedicel 0.5-4 mm high, densely pubescent; sepals 3.5-4.5 x 2.2-3.6 mm; petals 2.5-3.7 x 2-3.2 mm, slightly obovate, obtuse with a ciliolate apex; staminodes connate at the base, 1.5-2 mm high, thin; ovary angular-globose, 3.2-3.5 x 2-3.3 mm. FRUIT irregularly top-shaped, 5-6 cm high, 4-6 cm in diam., on a densely hairy pedicel up to 12 x 7 mm; mesocarp fibrous; endocarp hard, woody and fibrous. SEED about 2.7 x 2.7 cm; endosperm homogeneous with central hollow. (J. Dransfield and H. Beentje. 1995)/Palmweb. Editing by edric.


In southern California this palm is slightly marginal when it comes to cold tolerance. Frosts tend to do significant leaf damage (less and less as plants age) even at 28 F, and may even defoliate young plants. However, if not frozen severely, these plants often recover even from a completely leafless state and sometimes from a rotten bud. The warmer the climate, the happier these palms are, and they perform the best in inland desert areas where temperatures often exceed 120 F in summers. However, they do survive, though are afflicted more frequently by bud rot, along the coast of southern California where temperatures rarely exceed 90 F, and several mature, trunking specimens are known. Fruiting is rare in these coastal individuals however. This is a full sun species and struggles sometimes if grown in partial sun. It is a slow growing palm in southern California taking up to a decade or more to form a trunk (trunks usually) with the possible exception of desert plants (much faster growth there). Most plants start out as individual plants but dichotomize early on long before a trunk is formed, usually right at ground level. Branching plants are unknown in California. In other parts of the US (Florida and Hawaii) this plant is a routine grower and very tolerant of copious rainfall, growing quite rapidly relative to its rate in southern California (with the possible exception of the desert regions). This species grows well even in marginal zones of Florida where frosts, or even freezes are frequent but not necessarily annual. Some grow this as an 'annual' knowing that someday a good freeze will come along and kill it, but some plants survive to maturity before this happens. Editing by G Stein

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Comments and Curiosities

This is a dioecious genus.

Uses: Leaf fibres used in basketry, hat-making, rope-making. Palm heart edible. Sometimes used to make palm wine. (J. Dransfield and H. Beentje. 1995)/Palmweb.

"Synonymous with H. natalensis now, this palm seems to be the most widely cultivated in the genus. This palm is unique in that it branches above ground level. It is cold hardy into the lower-mid 20s, making it popular throughout Central and South Florida. It is related to both the Bismarckia and Latania genera." (Christian Faulkner)

This African beauty forms a low, multi-branched trunk that starts forking at ground level. This, together with its rigid, costapalmate, blue-green leaves and orange, pear-shaped fruit, gives it a very distinctive appearance. In some areas of its large range it forms dense colonies; but in cultivation, it is still comparatively rare. It can be grown in tropical and warm temperate zones and favors a savanna-type climate with hot summers. Once established, its deep roots will search out underground water, making it extremely drought tolerant. It is the only species in the genus small enough for an average garden, and is also the most frost resistant in the genus. (RPS.com)

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).

Dransfield, J. & Beentje, H. 1995. The Palms of Madagascar. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and The International Palm Society.

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

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