Hyphaene petersiana

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Hyphaene (high-FEHN-eh)
petersiana (peters'-ee-AHN-ah)
North-West, Botswana.
Scientific Classification
Genus: Hyphaene (high-FEHN-eh)
petersiana (peters'-ee-AHN-ah)
None set.
Native Continent
Habit: Solitary, but may be given to dichotomous (twin forked or aerial) branching.
Leaf type: Palmate
Survivability index
Common names
Vegetable Ivory Palm, Makalani Palm, Omulunga, Epokola or Mbare. African Ivory Nut Palm, African Wine Palm, doum, dum palm, fan palm, ilala palm, makalani palm, makola palm, mokola palm, mulala palm, northern ilala palm, northern lala palm, Northern Lala Palm, real fan palm, real fan palm., vegetable ivory, vegetable ivory palm, Vegetable Ivory Palm., vegetable-ivory palm. (En). Palmier à Ivoire D´afrique. (Fr).

Habitat and Distribution

Angola, Burundi, Caprivi Strip, Mozambique, Namibia, Northern Provinces, Rwanda,
Hyphaenecoriacea Lalapalm Shingwedzi Pumbaa 2 zps6fd189d0.jpg
Tanzania, Zaire, and Zimbabwe.

Alt: 275 - 1000 m. Africa: Saline subsoil. Found on sodic/saline alluvial soils with high water-tables. Occurs on the high water-table grasslands of Zimbabwe, Angola and Botswana. Southern Africa: Low altitude bushveld and along swamps, pans and rivers, often forming extensive stands. Zambia: Found in considerable numbers in savanna woodlands of Kirkia-Sclerocarya and in mopane woodland. Rare to occasional in almost all woodland types (on Kalahari sand), in Baikiaea forest and on suffrutex savannas. Africa: Savanna or secondary vegetation, also in streamside riparian vegetation. Zambia: Found in association with various vegetation types. 1) In mixed riverine vegetation in tall grass and mostly under the tree canopy. 2) In woodland. 3) On hard pan sites with short grass only. 4) In dense thicket being regrowth from riverine vegetation after cultivation. (PROTA4U)

Africa: Occurs in Tanzania from Lake Manyara and through Zaire to the west coast of Africa in Angola and Namibia. Africa: Found at high altitudes in Rwanda and Burundi. In east and southern Africa, occurs in a broad swathe from Tanzania southwards into north Transvaal and west into Angola and Zaire. Botswana: Occurs in sizeable numbers in the area stretching from Nata village, westward to the Okavango Delta. Botswana: Northern Botswana, from Nata to Shakawe, Delta and Makgadikgadi (according to Moss and Taylor, 1983, referring to the synonym H. benguellensis var. ventricosa). Namibia: Fairly widespread across northern Namibia, north of 20 degrees. Most abundant in the Cuvelai where it is often the dominant tree species. Two records from the Swakop River in the central Namibia desert, away from farms and unlikely to have been planted, probably represent regeneration from seeds washed down the river from cultivated palms upstream. Namibia: Kaokoveld, Owamboland, Etosha, Grootfontein, Kavango. Namibia: Very common along the Kunene and large seasonal rivers. Okavango Delta, Botswana: Very common, often forming homogenous island communities which cover the entire island. The Mogogelo floodplain is dominated by these palms, but the Khwai floodplain boasts only a few specimens. Prevalent around pans and on the edges of sand islands. Southern Africa: Far north of Namibia, northern Botswana, northern Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Angola, Zambia and Malawi. Zambia: Northern, Central, Eastern, Lusaka, Southern and Western Provinces. Zimbabwe: Widespread. Africa: Occurs on the high water-table grasslands of Zimbabwe, Angola and Botswana. (PROTA4U)

Southern Africa: Open, sandy country, not normally alongside watercourses. Riverine habitat, areas of high rainfall or areas with a high water-table. Namibia: Associated with rivers and floodplains in the north-west and nort-east, and pans and oshanas in the Cuvelai. Zambia: Locally frequent on dambo or plain margins, in lake basins and hard pan dambo and pan margins. Africa: Primarily found inland away from the coast. Zambia The palms grow on alluvium which is usually a red-brown or grey-brown clay sand derived from the hills of karoo sandstone and escarpment grits. They are confined to flatter ground in the valleys and occur mostly along the Kaulungu River valley and on slightly raised sandy deposits in long narrow strips near the Luangwa River. (PROTA4U)


Leaves: Fan-shaped and arranged in a spiral along the apex of the ramet. The leaf petioles have hooked thorns along their margins. The number of green leaves on the ramet varies with ramet size. In Zimbabwe, leaf production continues throughout the year, but with two peaks - September-December (just after flowering) and March-June. Leaf longevity ranges from three to ten months. Height: 5-7 m, sometimes 15 m (according to Coates Palgrave, 1977, referring to the synonym H. benguellensis Welw.). Leaves: Fan-shaped, grey-green, 1.5-2 m long, petiole armed with spines. Fruits: Round or slightly oval, 4-5 cm, produced in large numbers taking 2 years to mature and 2 years to fall. Height: Up to 20 m (according to Moss and Taylor, 1983, referring to the synonym H. benguellensis var. ventricosa). Flowers: In drooping clusters. Fruits: Roughly spherical, brown, up to 8 cm (according to Moss and Taylor, 1983, referring to the synonym H. benguellensis var. ventricosa). Fruits: Small, more or less globose, 4.0 - 6.0 cm in diameter, ripening from green through orange to glossy dark brown. Height: The stem may reach more than 10 m. Height: Up to 18 m. (PROTA4U)

Single stemmed, with a slight swelling about halfway up the stem, or suckering and forming clumps. Lifeform: Where conditions are not favourable the tree grows as a small dry shrub with leaves at ground level. Most juvenile palms arise from suckers produced by the rhizome left behind when an adult palm is destroyed. Suckering may be stimulated by fire. Root suckers occasionally develop from the fusion of two or more roots of the parent palm. (PROTA4U)


Several Hypheane species are growing in Palm Springs, Ca. ( Coriacea, Petersiana, Thebaica ). They all seem to be growing well, healthy, show no burning from the intense summer sun, love the summer heat, and generally grow well in this desert climate. Growing in native sand and "DG" soil, with excellent drainage, drought tolerant but seem to enjoy plenty of water in summer months.

Fire and the passing of the fruit throuth the digestive tract of animals facilitate the germination of seeds. Fire is a more important stimulus for germination than passing through the digestive system of an animal. The burning away of the exocarp and the simultaneous heat treatment appears to speed up germination. Difficult. Can be propagated from seed. Mean emergence time on 1% agar-water at 26 degrees C was 23 to 52 days. Soaking seeds in water reduced this by 21 to 56%. Seeds do not germinate easily, plants are slow growing and the massive taproot makes it almost impossible to transplant the trees once they are established. Namibia: 1.7 degrees C - 40.6 degrees C. (PROTA4U)

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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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