Raphia farinifera (Gaertn.) Hyl., Lustgården 31-32: 88 (1952)

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  • All Raphia palms seen by us were closely associated with human habitation; variation within the Madagascar populations seems to be minimal, especially as regards the fruit; this gives us reason to believe the species has been introduced to the island. This same species is common and widespread in continental Africa. (Dransfield, J. & Beentje, H. 1995: The Palms of Madagascar)A


Map uses TDWG level 3 distributions (https://github.com/tdwg/wgsrpd)
Angola present (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
Benin present (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
Burkina present (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
Cameroon present (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
Gambia, The present (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
Ghana present (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
Guinea present (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
Ivory Coast present (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
Kenya present (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
Madagascar present (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
Malawi present (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
Mauritius present (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
Mozambique present (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
Nigeria present (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
Réunion present (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
Senegal present (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
Seychelles present (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
Sierra Leone present (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
Tanzania present (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
Togo present (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
Uganda present (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
Zambia present (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
Zimbabwe present (World Checklist of Arecaceae)B
Mainland Africa; in Madagascar probably introduced. (Dransfield, J. & Beentje, H. 1995: The Palms of Madagascar)A


  • According to Gerard Jean (pers. comm.), plants take 20-25 years from seed to flowering, and 5-6 years from flowering to ripe fruit; all the fruits mature in the same year. Perrier stated that raffia in Madagascar varies quite a bit as regards the length of the fibres, and in the form and size of the fruit. The most striking variety, he said, is one with very large fruits in the Sambirano. No material of this has come to light. (Dransfield, J. & Beentje, H. 1995: The Palms of Madagascar)A

Biology And Ecology

  • Moist situations (swamps, stream banks) near human habitations; 50-1000 m. (Dransfield, J. & Beentje, H. 1995: The Palms of Madagascar)A


  • Not threatened. (Dransfield, J. & Beentje, H. 1995: The Palms of Madagascar)A

Common Name

  • Raffia (general). (Dransfield, J. & Beentje, H. 1995: The Palms of Madagascar)A


  • Fibres from young leaves used for a variety of crafts, including hat-making, fibre-weaving for clothing and basketry; petioles used in hut construction; fruits and hearts edible. (Dransfield, J. & Beentje, H. 1995: The Palms of Madagascar)A


  • Solitary palm, though clustering in mainland Africa. TRUNK to 10 m, covered in persistent leaf sheaths. LEAVES c. 12 in the crown, porrect, slightly spreading, giving the crown a "shuttle-cock" appear- ; ance, very long, to 20 m; leaf base sheathing, with ragged ligular edge; petiole rounded in section; sheath and petiole c. 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 diam., glabrous; primary prophyll c. 25 x 28 cm; peduncular bract c. 18 cm long and 8 cm diam., tubular for c. 11 cm; rachis glabrous; second order prophylls c. 9 cm long; first order branches with 13-32 rachillae packed very densely in almost one plane; rachillae 6-13 cm long, c. 8 x 5 mm diam., with dense flowers. STAMINATE FLOWERS with a tubular bract, 7-7.5 x 5-6 mm, broadly ovate, acute; prophyll c. 6 mm long and 3 mm 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 c. 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 c. 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 c. 12 rows of reflexed scales, these with a median vertical groove, the largest scales c. 16 x 16 mm, chestnut-brown in colour. SEED ovoid, c. 3.5 x 3.2 cm; endosperm densely ruminate, the ruminations almost reaching the centre of the seed. (Dransfield, J. & Beentje, H. 1995: The Palms of Madagascar)A

Materials Examined

  • Sambava: Sambava area, Nov./Dec. 1950 (roots), Humbert & Capuron s.n. (P). Maroantsetra: Maroantsetra, near the airport, Feb. 1988 (bud, fr.), Henderson et al. 757 (K, P). Ifanadiana: near Ifanadiana, Nov. 1994 (ster.), Dransfield JD7516 (K, TAN). The Sambava specimen consists of only pneumatophores, but one has to assume that Humbert knew a Raphia when he saw one! (Dransfield, J. & Beentje, H. 1995: The Palms of Madagascar)A


    A. Dransfield, J. & Beentje, H. 1995: The Palms of Madagascar
    B. World Checklist of Arecaceae