Hyphaene petersiana (Northern lala palm,
Real fan palm, Vegetable ivory palm)
[= Hyphaene ventricosa]
Noordelike lalapalm [Afrikaans];
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Charophyta > Streptophytina > Plantae (land plants)
> Tracheophyta (vascular plants) > Euphyllophyta > Lignophyta (woody plants)
> Spermatophyta (seed plants) > Angiospermae (flowering
> Monocotyledons > Order: Arecales > Family:
Hyphaene petersiana, Zambezi-Shire
confluence, Mozambique. [photo John E. Burrows ©]
Hyphaene petersiana, Zambesi National Park,
Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. [photo Bart Wursten ©,
Hyphaene petersiana, Masuma Dam, Hwange
National Park, Zimbabwe. [photo Bart Wursten ©,
This palm is larger than Hyphaene coriacea,
growing to 18 m high. It could be mistaken for Borassus aethiopicum
(Borassus palm) but the latter has larger leaves (3-4 m long including
petiole, versus 1.5 - 2 m long in H. coriacea), and larger fruit (12-18
cm in diameter versus 4-5 cm). The natural distributions of the two species
within southern Africa also hardly overlap.
Distribution and habitat
Has a tropical African distribution and within southern Africa occurs in
northern Namibia, northern Botswana and northern Zimbabwe. Found in low-altitude
bushveld and bordering rivers, swamps and pans.
- Fruit are eaten by:
- Leaves and shoots are eaten by:
- Acts as a roosting and nesting site for:
Uses by humans
- Mats, hats and baskets are made from the
- The hard white kernel of the seed, termed
vegetable ivory, is carved into small ornaments
- In northern Namibia, leaves are torn into
shreds and dyed to make false hair or are used
to hold a girl's hair arrangement in place.
- Sap is tapped from the growing tip of the
stem. This involves cutting away the growing tip
and basal leaves and then making an incision
into which a leaf stalk is placed that acts as a
spout, sending the oozing liquid into a
container attached to the stem.
- Young fruits are boiled and eaten. Mature
fruits have a thin, sweet outer fibrous layer
that is eaten.
- The core of young trunks is eaten as a
vegetable by the San.
- People drink the liquid inside the kernel of
the seed, which is similar to coconut milk.
- 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
- van Wyk, B. and van Wyk, P. 1997. Field Guide to Trees of Southern
Africa. Struik Publishers, Cape Town.