- Scientific name: Raphia farinifera
- Family: Arecaceae (palm)
Palm tree up to 21m tall. Multiple trunks, up to 3m tall, each dying after producing fruit (hapaxanthic). Leaves very large, feather-shaped, held erect. Collections of flowers (inflorescences) large, hangs down from the leaves. Fruits covered with attractive scales. Seeds grooved and furrowed. Pollinated by wind.
- Raffia palms have remarkably large leaves, with the largest belonging to Raphia regalis, reaching a vast 25m long.
- The leaves are supported by trunks that are relatively short in comparison.
Where it grows
Although raffia is native to Madagascar, it now grows throughout tropical Africa.
The fibre extracted from raffia is used to make textiles, mats, baskets and hats, and also to make a type of strong string used in gardening and flower farming. While its leaf stalks (petioles) are used to build houses and make furniture, its vast leaves are used as roofing. A wax is extracted from the leaves to make floor and shoe polish. The sap is used to make an alcoholic wine.