Borassus aethiopum Mart.

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Borassus aethiopum

Photo: Bart Wursten
Along road from entrance gate to Chitengo, Gorongosa National Park

Borassus aethiopum

Photo: Bart Wursten
Along road from entrance gate to Chitengo, Gorongosa National Park

Borassus aethiopum

Photo: Bart Wursten
In Chitengo Camp, Gorongosa National Park.

Borassus aethiopum

Photo: Bart Wursten
Along road from entrance gate to Chitengo, Gorongosa National Park

Borassus aethiopum

Photo: Stefaan Dondeyne
Chimokono area near Moribane Forest, along path going towards the Musuma river

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Species details: Click on each item to see an explanation of that item (Note: opens a new window)

Synonyms: Borassus flabellifer L. var. aethiopum (Mart.) Warb.
Common names: Borassus palm (English) N'dhikhua (Sena)
Frequency: Locally very common
Status: Native
Large palm tree. Stems erect, up to 20 m, with a distinct swelling above the middle. Leaves crowded on top of the stem, fan-shaped, blue-green up to 4 m including the petiole. Petiole armed with recurved thorns. Flowers in large branched sprays, unisexual on separate trees, female flowers larger than male. Fruit large, 12-18 cm in diameter, subspherical, orange-brown.
Notes: This species can be mistaken for H. coriacea but is a much stouter tree with larger leaves and fruits and mature trees have the distinctive swelling in the trunk. Seriously threatened by increased exploitation to brew a strong alcoholic drink from the sap. Mature trees are cut and killed for this purpose.
Derivation of specific name: aethiopum: Ethiopia, the name of the sub-Saharan biological region before the country formerly known as Abyssinia claimed the name Ethiopia.
Habitat: In moist open woodland and riverine areas or floodplain alluvium.
Altitude range: Up to 400 m
Flowering time:Aug - Oct
Worldwide distribution: Sudanian, Zambezian and Coastal phytochoria, extending to northern South Africa.
Mozambique distribution: N,Z,MS,GI
Growth form(s): Tree, shrub over 2 m.
Endemic status:
Red data list status:
Insects associated with this species: Zophopetes dysmephyla (Larval foodplant)
Spot characters: Display spot characters for this species
Content last updated: Tuesday 12 June 2007

Burrows, J.E., Burrows, S.M., Lötter, M.C. & Schmidt, E. (2018). Trees and Shrubs Mozambique Publishing Print Matters (Pty), Cape Town. Page 51. (Includes a picture).

Chapano, C. & Mamuto, M. (2003). Plants of the Chimanimani District National Herbarium and Botanic Garden, Zimbabwe Page 9.

Coates Palgrave, K. (revised and updated by Meg Coates Palgrave) (2002). Trees of Southern Africa 3rd edition. Struik, South Africa

Da Silva, M.C., Izidine, S. & Amude, A.B. (2004). A preliminary checklist of the vascular plants of Mozambique. Southern African Botanical Diversity Network Report No. 30 Sabonet, Pretoria Page 120.

Dransfield, J. (2010). Arecaceae Flora Zambesiaca 13(2) Pages 61 - 63. (Includes a picture).

Drummond, R.B. (1975). A list of trees, shrubs and woody climbers indigenous or naturalised in Rhodesia. Kirkia 10(1) Page 232.

Fanshawe, D.B. (). District vegetation reports Division of Forest Research, Kitwe (roneo).

Fanshawe, D.B. (1971). The Vegetation of Zambia. Division of Forest Research, Kitwe.

Fowler, D.G. (2007). Zambian Plants: Their Vernacular Names and Uses, Kew Publishing

Golding, J.S. (ed.) (2002). Zimbabwe Plant Red Data List. Southern African Plant Red Data Lists. SABONET 14 Page 162.

Mapaura, A. & Timberlake, J. (eds) (2004). A checklist of Zimbabwean vascular plants Southern African Botanical Diversity Network Report No. 33 Sabonet, Pretoria and Harare

Phiri, P.S.M. (2005). A Checklist of Zambian Vascular Plants Southern African Botanical Diversity Network Report No. 32

White, F. (1962). Forest Flora of Northern Rhodesia Oxford Univ. Press.

White, F. (1983). The Vegetation of Africa. A descriptive memoir. UNESCO, Paris

Other sources of information about Borassus aethiopum:

Our websites:

Flora of Malawi: Borassus aethiopum
Flora of Zambia: Borassus aethiopum
Flora of Zimbabwe: Borassus aethiopum
Flora of Zimbabwe: cultivated Borassus aethiopum

External websites:

African Plants: A Photo Guide (Senckenberg): Borassus aethiopum
African Plant Database: Borassus aethiopum
BHL (Biodiversity Heritage Library): Borassus aethiopum
EOL (Encyclopedia of Life): Borassus aethiopum
ePIC (electronic Plant Information Center): Borassus aethiopum
Flora Zambesiaca web site: Borassus aethiopum
GBIF (Global Biodiversity Information Facility): Borassus aethiopum
Google: Web - Images - Scholar
GRIN (Germplasm Resources Information Network): Borassus aethiopum
iNaturalist: Borassus aethiopum
IPNI (International Plant Names Index): Borassus aethiopum
JSTOR Plant Science: Borassus aethiopum
Kew Herbarium catalogue: Borassus aethiopum
Kew Monocotyledon checklist: Borassus aethiopum
Mansfeld World Database of Agricultural and Horticultural Crops: Borassus aethiopum
Plants of the World Online: Borassus aethiopum
Tropicos: Borassus aethiopum
Wikipedia: Borassus aethiopum

Copyright: Mark Hyde, Bart Wursten, Petra Ballings and Meg Coates Palgrave 2007-23

Hyde, M.A., Wursten, B.T., Ballings, P. & Coates Palgrave, M. (2023). Flora of Mozambique: Species information: Borassus aethiopum., retrieved 31 March 2023

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