Botany | Makalani Palms

Wikipidia reports the following:

The Real fan palm (Hyphaene petersiana), locally known as the Makalani palm, is a palm tree native to the subtropical, low-lying regions of south central Africa. Its habitat is open woodland, flood plains, banks of rivers and the fringes of pans and swamps. It is found in Burundi, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, Angola, Mozambique, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia and the northern and north-eastern Transvaal.[2]

As with other Hyphaene species, H. petersiana is dioicous and the female plants produce copious fruit of some 60 mm diameter. Up to 2,000 fruit may be found on a tree,[3] the combined yield of about four seasons.[4] The seeds germinate with difficulty but find saline conditions beneficial.[4] They develop massive tap-roots which draw saline water deep underground.[4] Though slow-growing,[3] they may attain a maximum height of 18m.[5] Typical adult plants are in the order of 5-7m high.

The plants are utilized by humans and animals. Repeated cutting of the growth point to obtain sap for palm wine production may eventually destroy the trees.[3] (This is sadly, also very true here in the Cunene Region where these trees are destroyed without any thought about the future.) The stem pith is edible. Beneath the outer fibrous husk of the fruit is a core of white endosperm known as ‘vegetable ivory’, initially soft and edible and containing some liquid comparable to coconut milk.[5] The Ovambo people call the fruit of the Makalani palm eendunga and use it to distill ombike, their traditional liquor.[6]

Photos © Dieter – Epupa Falls Lodge

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