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This genus is accepted, and its native range is Tropical & S. Africa, W. Indian Ocean, Central America to Brazil.

[PW]
Diagnostic
Generally massive acaulescent or tree palms of Equatorial Africa, Madagascar and South and Central America, with huge pinnate leavesand often fibrous leaf sheaths; hapaxanthic and monoecious, the rachilllae bear solitary pistillate flowers near the base and solitary staminate flowers distally. The fruit is usually very large.
Biology
Most species of Raphia seem to be plants of swamp lands, but R. regalis occurs on hillslopes in humid tropical rain forest.
Morphology
Leaf, petiole, stem, root (Tomlinson 1961), root (Seubert 1996a).
Vernacular
Raphia palms.
General Description
Massive, solitary or clustered, armed, hapaxanthic, monoecious, acaulescent or tree palms. Stem subterranean to erect, usually partly obscured by the marcescent leaf bases, the internodes sometimes bearing short, negatively geotropic, ± spine-like roots, cortex hard, pith soft. Leaves massive, pinnate, marcescent; sheath unarmed, splitting opposite the petiole, with or without a conspicuous ligule, disintegrating into thin sheets or sometimes partly into black fibre bundles (‘piassava’); petiole short to very long, unarmed, usually deeply channelled adaxially only at the base, rounded distally; rachis unarmed, angled adaxially, rounded abaxially; leaflets single-fold, linear, numerous, regularly arranged or grouped and fanned within the groups to give the leaf a plumose appearance, often whitish beneath, armed with short spines along the margins and the midrib, the margins frequently greatly thickened, midribs very large, transverse veinlets conspicuous or inconspicuous. Inflorescences branched to 2 orders, produced simultaneously in the axils of the most distal few leaves, either interfoliar and pendulous or aggregated into a massive, erect, suprafoliar, compound inflorescence; peduncle short; prophyll tubular, 2-keeled, closely sheathing to inflated, sometimes splitting opposite the keels, with 1 or 2 short triangular lobes; peduncular bracts several (ca. 6) and inflated basally with triangular limbs; rachis much longer than the peduncle; rachis bracts distichous or in 4 ranks, tubular, closely sheathing to somewhat inflated, usually each subtending a first-order branch, rarely empty; first-order branches reflexed or variously spreading, sometimes scarcely exserted from the bract, bearing a basal, 2-keeled, tubular prophyll, and distichous or 4 ranked, tubular bracts with triangular limbs, each, except for the prophyll and 1–few basal-most, subtending a rachilla; rachillae very crowded to distant and sometimes not exserted; rachilla prophyll tightly sheathing, 2-keeled;subsequent rachilla bracts tending to be distichous or in 4 ranks, tubular, tightly sheathing, with short, striate triangular limbs; distal 1–3 bracts empty, of the remaining, the proximal bracts from 1/4 – 2/3 the rachilla length each subtending a pistillate flower and 2 prophyllar bracteoles, the distal, each subtending a staminate flower with a single prophyllar bracteole, very rarely at the junction between staminate and pistillate parts of the rachilla, the bract subtending a dyad of 1 staminate and 1 pistillate flower; rarely in apical portions of the inflorescence, rachillae bearing staminate flowers only. Staminate flowers conspicuously exserted; calyx tubular, shallowly 3-lobed; corolla greatly exceeding the calyx, sometimes glossy, tubular at the base, with 3 elongate, triangular, sometimes spine-like, valvate lobes; stamens 6–30, filaments narrowly spindle-shaped, joined to the corolla near the base, variously distinct or connate into a fleshy tube, abruptly contracted at the connective, anthers elongate, sagittate basally, uneven distally, introrse or latrorse; pistillode absent or minute. Pollen ellipsoidal, bi-symmetric; aperture a distal sulcus, often notably shorter than long axis; ectexine tectate, scabrate, perforate, perforate-rugulate, rugulate, or granular-rugulate or, rarely, ectexine intectate and sparsely spinulose, aperture margin similar; infratectum usually very dense and narrow, barely columellate, although in some species interrupted by wide cavities; longest axis 17–35 µm [13/20]. Pistillate flowers sometimes only partly exserted from the rachilla bracts; calyx tubular, ± truncate or shallowly 3-lobed, later splitting; corolla exceeding or scarcely longer than the calyx, tubular in proximal ca. 1/2, distally with 3 valvate, triangular lobes; staminodes united into an epipetalous ring, with 6–16 irregular teeth of varying lengths bearing the flattened, sagittate, short, empty anthers; gynoecium tricarpellate, triovulate, ovoid to somewhat conical, with a short style and conical 3-lobed stigma, locule partitions incomplete, ovule basally attached, anatropous. Fruit usually large, elliptical, 1- seeded, with apical stigmatic remains; epicarp covered in neat vertical rows of large reflexed scales, mesocarp thick, mealy, oil-rich, endocarp not differentiated. Seed subbasally attached with dry seed coat, variously coarsely furrowed, endosperm with a few large ruminations; embryo lateral. Germination adjacent-ligular; eophyll usually pinnate, more rarely bifid. Cytology: 2n = 28.
Distribution
Twenty species, throughout the more humid areas of Africa; one species in Madagascar possibly introduced; one species, Raphia taedigera, in tropical America but stated by Otedoh (1977) also to occur in West Africa and to be introduced in tropical America (this, however, seems unlikely).

[FTEA]

Palmae, John Dransfield. Flora of Tropical East Africa. 1994

Morphology General Habit
Solitary or clustered, acaulescent to erect, massive, hapaxanthic, monoecious palms
Morphology Stem
Stem, whether short or not, of massive construction, with internodes relatively short, usually covered with rotting leaf-bases and fibres, and often with apogeotropic roots
Morphology Leaves
Leaf reduplicately pinnate, massive (some of the largest leaves in the plant kingdom); leaf-base briefly sheathing, in some species (not in E. Africa) producing broad black fibres (‘piassava’) clothing the stem; petiole short to long; rachis channelled adaxially in proximal region, with 2 lateral grooves accommodating the leaflets in bud; leaflets numerous, crowded, one-fold, arranged in 1–several planes; leaflets in most species spiny along margins and/or midvein, usually with abundant wax on the abaxial surface
Morphology Reproductive morphology Inflorescences
Inflorescences produced ± simultaneously in the axils of the most distal, often reduced leaves or bracts, erect or pendulous; axis of the inflorescence bearing a prophyll and several empty tubular bracts, followed by subdistichous or faintly 4-ranked bracts each subtending a first order branch; first order branches each with a basal prophyll and several empty tubular bracts followed by subdistichous or faintly 4-ranked bracts each subtending a rachilla; rachillae tending to lie ± in the same plane, each with a basal prophyll and several empty bracts followed by distichous tubular bracts each subtending a flower, female flowers in the proximal 1/4–3/4 of the rachilla, male flowers in the distal portion, rarely 1–2 bracts subtending a pair, one male and one female; each flower enclosed within a 2-keeled prophyll, and in the instance of the female flower, with a second tubular bracteole
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers
Male flower with tubular scarcely 3-lobed calyx; corolla tubular below, with 3 free lobes above; stamens 6–20 or more, briefly epipetalous and usually connate by their fleshy filaments to some degree; pistillode sometimes present, minute Female flower with tubular 3-lobed calyx; corolla tubular below with 3 free petals above; staminodal ring present, epipetalous, with sterile flattened, sagittate anthers; pistil with 3 free or connate terminal stigmas; ovary covered with vertical rows of reflexed fimbriate scales; locules 3, each with a single bitegmic, anatropous ovule, normally only 1 ovule developing to maturity
sex Male
Male flower with tubular scarcely 3-lobed calyx; corolla tubular below, with 3 free lobes above; stamens 6–20 or more, briefly epipetalous and usually connate by their fleshy filaments to some degree; pistillode sometimes present, minute
sex Female
Female flower with tubular 3-lobed calyx; corolla tubular below with 3 free petals above; staminodal ring present, epipetalous, with sterile flattened, sagittate anthers; pistil with 3 free or connate terminal stigmas; ovary covered with vertical rows of reflexed fimbriate scales; locules 3, each with a single bitegmic, anatropous ovule, normally only 1 ovule developing to maturity
Morphology Reproductive morphology Fruits
Fruit tipped with the stigmatic remains and covered with the enlarged reflexed scales arranged in vertical rows, each normally with a depressed vertical central line; mesocarp oily
Morphology Reproductive morphology Seeds
Seed with a moderately thick, rather dry testa and endosperm penetrated by rather large ruminations; embryo lateral Germination adjacent-ligular; seedling leaf pinnate.

[PW]
Use
Species of Raphia are of extreme economic importance. Raphia fibre is obtained by stripping off the cuticle and hypodermis from the emerging leaflets; locally it is used for a wide range of purposes, such as basketware and twine, and it is exported for garden twine and weaving. Piassava is obtainable from the leaf sheaths of R. hookeri. Petioles of many species are used as a substitute for bamboo in house and furniture construction and leaflets are used for thatch. Palm wine can be obtained by tapping the stem apex. The mesocarp of some species provides a source of cooking oil. The kernels and stem apex are sometimes eaten. The fruit of some species is used as a fish poison.

Native to:

Angola, Benin, Brazil North, Burkina, Burundi, Cabinda, Cameroon, Cape Provinces, Central African Repu, Chad, Colombia, Congo, Costa Rica, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Gulf of Guinea Is., Ivory Coast, Kenya, KwaZulu-Natal, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Panamá, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, Zaïre, Zimbabwe

Introduced into:

Mauritius, Réunion, Seychelles, Trinidad-Tobago

Raphia P.Beauv. appears in other Kew resources:

Date Reference Identified As Barcode Type Status
Jun 22, 2006 Cheek, M. [11780], Cameroon K000209113

First published in Fl. Oware 1: 75 (1806)

Accepted by

  • Govaerts, R. & Dransfield, J. (2005). World Checklist of Palms: 1-223. The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Literature

Palmweb - Palms of the World Online

  • J. Dransfield & N. Uhl & C. Asmussen & W.J. Baker & M. Harley & C. Lewis, Genera Palmarum. The evolution and classification of palms. 2008

Catálogo de Plantas y Líquenes de Colombia

  • WCVP (2021). World Checklist of Vascular Plants, version 2.0. Facilitated by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Published on the Internet; http://wcvp.science.kew.org/ Retrieved 28 April 2021

Flora of West Tropical Africa

  • F.T.A. 8: 104
  • Fl. Oware 1: 75 (1806)
  • Russell in Kew Bull. 19: 173-196 (1965).

Flora of Tropical East Africa

  • A. Chev. in Rev. Bot. Appliq. 12: 93–104, 198–213 (1932)
  • Agric. Col. 4: 137–170 (1910)
  • Becc. in Webbia 3: 37 (1910)
  • Fl. Owar. 1: 75 (1809)
  • T.A. Russell in K.B. 19:173–196 (1965)

Flora of Tropical East Africa
Flora of Tropical East Africa
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0

Flora of West Tropical Africa
Flora of West Tropical Africa

Herbarium Catalogue Specimens

Kew Backbone Distributions
The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2021. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/
© Copyright 2017 World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone
The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2021. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/
© Copyright 2017 International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

Palmweb - Palms of the World Online
Palmweb 2011. Palmweb: Palms of the World Online. Published on the internet http://www.palmweb.org. Accessed on 21/04/2013
Content licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0