- Scientific name: Elaeis guineensis
- Family: Arecaceae (palm)
Palm tree up to 18m tall. Stem erect and scarred. Leaves up to 4.5m long, grouped in clusters and in several planes. Flowering structure (inflorescence) up to 30cm long. Fruits approximately 2.5cm long, ovoid to conical.
- The oil palm is second only to the soybean in terms of world use as a vegetable oil. Many foods, including ice cream, chocolate and crisps, have palm oil as an ingredient. Although 90% of the world’s palm oil is used in food, other uses include soaps, shampoo, lipstick and engine oil.
- Oil palms are the most important oil-producing plants of the tropics; fast growing, they yield a crop within five years.
- Africa uses what it grows, while the vast plantations in South-East Asia supply the world. As our demand increases, so does the march into virgin land. Palm oil production is threatening rainforests as more and more land is being cleared for plantations. Rapid and dramatic changes are needed in the industry to stop the devastation. There is a movement to encourage the planting of oil palms on degraded land rather than clearing primary rainforest. It has been suggested that labelling schemes are needed to identify products that use sustainably produced palm oil.
Where it grows
The oil palm is native to West Africa.