Back to Biodiversity Explorer main pageGo to Iziko Museums of Cape Town home pageAbout Biodiversity Explorer - history, goals, etc.Send us your questions about southern African biodiversityPeople who have contributed content and images.Search Biodiversity Explorer

Borassus aethiopum (Borassus palm, African fan palm, Selati palm)

Life > eukaryotes > Archaeoplastida > Chloroplastida > Charophyta > Streptophytina > Plantae (land plants) > Tracheophyta (vascular plants) > Euphyllophyta > Lignophyta (woody plants) > Spermatophyta (seed plants) > Angiospermae (flowering plants) > Monocotyledons > Order: Arecales> Family: Arecaceae

Borassus aethiopum (Borassus palm, African fan palm, Selati palm)

Borassus aethiopum, Rusitu Valley, Zimbabwe. [photo Bart Wursten ©, Flora of Zimbabwe]

Borassus aethiopum (Borassus palm, African fan palm, Selati palm)

Borassus aethiopum, Messalo, Mozambique. [photo John E. Burrows ©]

Borassus aethiopum (Borassus palm, African fan palm, Selati palm)

Borassus aethiopum fruit, Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique. [photo Bart Wursten ©, Flora of Mozambique]

A large palm that grows to a height of 22 m. The stem has a distinctive swelling near the top although this is also characteristic of some other palm species. Could be mistaken for Hyphaene petersiana but the leaves are larger (3-4 m long including petiole, versus 1.5 - 2 m), and it has larger fruit (12-18 cm in diameter versus 4-5 cm). Within southern Africa, the natural distribution of the two species barely overlaps.

Distribution and habitat

Native to Africa and India. Within southern Africa, occurs in the Limpopo Province (where it is rare), eastern Zimbabwe, and parts of Mozambique.

Ecological interactions


  • As in the two Hyphaene species, the sap it tapped to turn into palm wine.
  • The fruit palp can be eaten.
  • In Mozambique, dugout canoes are made from the trunk.


  • Esterhuyse, N., von Breitenbach, J. and Söhnge, H. 2001. Remarkable Trees of South Africa. Briza Publications, Pretoria.
  • Palgrave, K.C. and Palgrave, M.C. 2002. Trees of Southern Africa. 3rd Edition. Struik Publishers, Cape Town.
  • Palmer, E. and Pitman, N. 1972. Trees of Southern Africa covering all known indigenous species in the Republic of South Africa, South-West Africa, Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland. Volume 1. A.A. Balkema, Cape Town.
  • van Wyk, B. and van Wyk, P. 1997. Field Guide to Trees of Southern Africa. Struik Publishers, Cape Town.


Contact us if you can contribute information or images to improve this page.

Biodiversity Explorer home   Iziko home   Search