Raphia farinifera

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Raphia (rahf-EE-ah)
farinifera (fahr-ih-nih-FEHR-ah)
Post-5709-050688300 1335955486.jpg
Mt. Warning Caldera, Nth NSW, Australia. Photo by Pete.
Scientific Classification
Genus: Raphia (rahf-EE-ah)
farinifera (fahr-ih-nih-FEHR-ah)
None set.
Native Continent
Habit: Solitary & clustering.
Leaf type: Palmate
Survivability index
Common names
Madagascar raphia palm, Bamenda raphia, East African wine palm, raffia palm (En). Raphia, palmier à raffia, palmier de Mayotte (Fr). Mwale, muwala, rutoro (Sw). thika nut.

Habitat and Distribution

Endemic to Mainland Africa; in Madagascar probably introduced. Angola, Benin,
Hawaii. Photo by Paul Craft.
Burkina, Cameroon, Gambia, The, Ghana, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Nigeria, Réunion, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe. Moist situations (swamps, stream banks) near human habitations; alt. 50-1000 m.

In its natural distribution area, Raphia farinifera is widespread in gallery forest, freshwater swamp-forest and other moist locations, up to 2500 m altitude. In Madagascar it is common near villages at the edge of water courses, at 50–1000 m altitude.


Solitary palm, though clustering in mainland Africa. TRUNK to 10 m high, covered in persistent leaf sheaths. LEAVES about 12 in the crown, porrect, slightly spreading, giving the crown a "shuttle-cock" appearance, very long, to 20 m; leaf base sheathing, with ragged ligular edge; petiole rounded in section; sheath and petiole about 1.5 m long; rachis several meters long, reddish, distally keeled, proximally to 13 cm wide and decreasing to 1 cm, with scattered scales; leaflets up to 150 on each side of the rachis, inserted in 2 planes and thereby giving the whole leaf a feathery appearance, stiff, attenuate, the median 87-103 x 3.6-3.7 cm, the distal 16-36 x 0.4-1.7 cm, main veins 1, margins with small (1-3 mm long) yellow spines from base to apex of leaflet, midrib adaxially with similar spines to 4 mm, waxy, with many minute reddish scales/glands scattered over the abaxial surface, and sparse ramenta on the midrib. INFLORESCENCE pendulous from the axils of reduced leaves at the stem apex, massive, to 3 m long and 35 cm wide, branched to 2 orders; peduncle distally c. 5.5 x 4.5 cm in diam., glabrous; primary prophyll about 25 x 28 cm; peduncular bract about 18 cm long and 8 cm in diam., tubular for about 11 cm; rachis glabrous; second order prophylls about 9 cm long; first order branches with 13-32 rachillae packed very densely in almost one plane; rachillae 6-13 cm long, about 8 x 5 mm in diam., with dense flowers. STAMINATE FLOWERS with a tubular bract, 7-7.5 x 5-6 mm, broadly ovate, acute; prophyll about 6 mm long and 3 mm in diam.; calyx tubular, 4.5-5 mm high, the lobes < 0.2 mm high, slightly ciliolate; corolla with a tube 2-3 x 1.2-1.5 mm, the lobes 6-6.6 x 2.1-2.5 mm, narrowly ovate and acute, not thickened; stamens 6, inserted at the mouth of the tube, filaments slightly connate, 2-2.8 x 0.5-0.8 mm, anthers 3.2-3.6 x 1.2-1.3 mm, basifixed, locules slightly divergent and sagittate at the base; pistillode not seen. PISTILLATE FLOWERS with a tubular bract about 10 x 9 mm, narrow at the base, widening in the tubular part and then narrowing to an acute apex; prophyll 7.5-8 mm, 2-keeled; bracteole 2.5-3.2 mm; calyx tubular and slightly urceolate, split, 5-6.5 mm high with a truncate apex; corolla tubular for 1-1.3 mm, the lobes narrowly triangular and acute, 2.7-3 x 1.5-1.8 mm; staminodes not seen; ovary about 5.5 x 2.7 mm, covered in fimbriate scales. FRUIT ovoid, 5-6 x 4-4.5 cm with a conical base and a rounded apex with a beak to 5 mm, covered in about 12 rows of reflexed scales, these with a median vertical groove, the largest scales about 16 x 16 mm, chestnut-brown in colour. SEED ovoid, about 3.5 x 3.2 cm; endosperm densely ruminate, the ruminations almost reaching the centre of the seed. (J. Dransfield and H. Beentje. 1995)/Palmweb. Editing by edric.


A palm of the tropics, it is able to succeed in subtropical areas. Palms succeed in moist tropical climates where temperatures never fall below 10°c, the average annual rainfall is 1,500 mm or more, and the driest month has 25 mm or more rain. Cold Hardiness Zone: 10b

Raphia farinifera is propagated by seed. Germination is slow, unless the outer layers of the seed are removed and the root is exposed. In Madagascar seeds have been reported to germinate after 4–5 months, and to be ready for planting out in the field at 1 year after sowing. Seedlings may also be collected from the wild and raised in a nursery before being planted out in the field. A normal spacing is 12 m × 12 m. Propagation by tissue culture techniques may offer potential for Raphia. (PROTA)

Requires a sunny position in a wet soil.

Comments and Curiosities

External Links


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).

J. Dransfield & H. Beentje, The Palms of Madagascar. 1995

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

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