Raffia palm

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Raffia palm
Raphia australis.jpg
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Monocots
Clade: Commelinids
Order: Arecales
Family: Arecaceae
Subfamily: Calamoideae
Tribe: Lepidocaryeae
Genus: Raphia

Raffia palms (Raphia) are a genus of about twenty species of palms native to tropical regions of Africa, and especially Madagascar, with one species (R. taedigera) also occurring in Central and South America.[1] R. taedigera is the source of raffia fibers, which are the veins of the leaves, and this species produces a fruit called "brazilia pods", "uxi nuts" or "uxi pods".[2]

They grow up to 16 m (52.5 ft) tall and are remarkable for their compound pinnate leaves, the longest in the plant kingdom; leaves of R. regalis up to 25 m (82.38 ft) long[3] and 3 m (9.84 ft) wide are known. The plants are monocarpic, meaning that they flower once and then die after the seeds are mature. Some species have individual stems which die after fruiting, but have a root system which remains alive and sends up new stems which fruit.


Image Scientific name Distribution
Raphia africana Otedoh Nigeria, Cameroon
Raphia australis 03 09 2010.JPG Raphia australis Oberm. & Strey Mozambique, South Africa
Starr-120522-5942-Raphia farinifera-habit-Iao Tropical Gardens of Maui-Maui (25116581256).jpg Raphia farinifera (Gaertn.) Hyl. Africa from Senegal to Tanzania, south to Mozambique and Zimbabwe
Raphia gentiliana De Wild. Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic
Raphia hookeri G.Mann & H.Wendl. western and central Africa from Liberia to Angola
Raphia laurentii De Wild. Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic
Raphia longiflora G.Mann & H.Wendl. from Nigeria to Democratic Republic of Congo
Raphia mambillensis Otedoh Nigeria, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Sudan
Raphia mannii Becc. Nigeria, Bioko
Raphia matombe De Wild. Cabinda, Democratic Republic of Congo
Raphia monbuttorum Drude Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, Central African Republic, South Sudan
Raphia palma-pinus (Gaertn.) Hutch. western Africa from Liberia to Cabinda
Raphia regalis Becc. central Africa from Nigeria to Angola
Raphia rostrata Burret Cabinda, Democratic Republic of Congo
Raphia ruwenzorica Otedoh eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Burundi
Raphia sese De Wild. Democratic Republic of Congo
Raphia sudanica-Jardin botanique Meise (7).jpg Raphia sudanica A. Chev. western Africa from Senegal to Cameroon
Raphia taedigera 2zz.jpg Raphia taedigera (Mart.) Mart. Nigeria, Cameroon, Central America (Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama), South America (Colombia, Pará State of Brazil)
Raphia textilis Welw. Cabinda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Angola
Raphia vinifera P. Beauv. western Africa from Democratic Republic of Congo to Benin

Cultivation and uses[edit]


Raffia is often used to graft trees

Raffia fibre is widely used throughout the world. It is used in twine, rope, baskets, placemats, hats, shoes, and textiles.

The fiber is produced from the membrane on the underside of each individual frond leaf. The membrane is taken off to create a long thin fiber which can be dyed and woven as a textile into products ranging from hats to shoes to decorative mats.

Plain raffia fibers are exported and used as garden ties or as a "natural" string in many countries. Especially when one wishes to graft trees, raffia is used to hold plant parts together as a more "natural" rope.[citation needed]

Raffia fibers have many uses, especially in the area of textiles and in construction. In their local environments, they are used for ropes, sticks and supporting beams, and various roof coverings are made out of its fibrous branches and leaves. A strand of raffia has a maximum length of about 1.5 m and an irregular width. When presented on spool or hank with a length of more than one meter and a half and regular width is not really raffia, it can be synthetic raffia, produced from a plastic material (polypropylene), or artificial, just like viscose (derived from wood, therefore basic cellulose cellulosic even if chemically treated). The first company in the world to design and build plants for the production of polypropylene raffia was the Covema of Milan founded by the brothers Dino Terragni and Marco Terragni. Covema collaborated with the Swiss company Sulzer, manufacturer of flat weaving looms for natural fibers, to adapt their looms to process polypropylene raffia woven products. Polypropylene raffia fabrics are still used to make carpet backing, protective sheets, rice bags, potatoes, citrus fruit, etc. Covema also developed coating lines to cover the raffia fabric with a thin film of polyethylene in order to make the fabric waterproof.[4]

Raffia wine[edit]

Raffia palm also provides an important cultural drink. The sap contains sugars. It is traditionally collected by cutting a box in the top of the palm and suspending a large gourd to collect the milky white liquid. Unlike oil palms, this process kills the tree. Sap from both the raffia and oil palms can be allowed to ferment over a few days. When first collected from the tree, it is sweet and appears slightly carbonated. As it ages more sugar is converted. The sap is usually called wine. The raffia wine tends to be sweeter at any age when compared to oil palm wine. Both kinds of palm wine can also be distilled into strong liquors, such as Ogogoro. Traditionally in some cultures where raffia or oil palm are locally available, guests and spirits are offered these drinks from the palm trees.

The raffia palm is important in societies such as that of the Province of Bohol in the Philippines, Kuba of Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nso of Cameroon, the Igbo and Ibibio/Annang/Bahumono of Southeastern Nigeria, the Tiv of Northcentral Nigeria and Southwestern Cameroons, the Urhobo and Ijaw people of Niger delta Nigeria and the Yoruba of southwestern Nigeria, among several other West African ethnic nations.

Raffia palm frond as fishing pole[edit]

The people of Ogba kingdom in Rivers State and other southern Nigerians have no alternative to raffia palm fronds as fishing poles. The frond is usually cut from a young raffia palm tree. The leaves are removed and the stake is dried, which becomes very light, and the hook is attached to a line, which is tied to the stake, making it a fishing pole.


  1. ^ a b Kew World Checklist of Selected Plant Families
  2. ^ Tucker, A.; Redford, A.; Scher, J.; Trice, M. (2010). "Raphia taedigera". Dried Botanical ID. Fort Collins, CO: Delaware State University, Identification Technology Program, CPHST, PPQ, APHIS, USDA. Retrieved 7 October 2016.
  3. ^ Hallé, F. 1977. The longest leaf in palms? Principes 21: 18.
  4. ^ https://www.polimerica.it/blog-articolo.asp?id=17

External links[edit]