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Arecaceae (Palmae), Raphia farinifera, Mwaale (Swahili)

September 15, 2009

The seeds below are from Raphia farinifera, indigenous to eastern Africa and throughout southern tropical Africa, also known as the Raffia palm.

The tree is massive, found in swamp forest growing in clusters, widespread in riverine forest and freshwater swamp forest, also frequently cultivated. Trees can grow up to 25 m., but such heights are not common. In Kenya the species grows in low-lying wet land, such as wet forests of the Lake Victoria belt and along river banks, up to 1,400 m. It thrives in deep black clay loams.

The Raffia palm has some of the largest leaves of all plants. Leaf stalks are used for their excellent fiber to make furniture, ropes, mats, baskets, thatch, rafters (leaf midribs), chairs (leaf midribs), and ladders (leaf midribs).

This species is quickly disappearing in the wild as its habitat is being destroyed. There is a dire need to both protect its habitat and encourage further cultivation so as to prevent over-exploitation.

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