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Raphia hookeri - G.Mann. & H.Wendl.

Common Name Ivory Coast Raffia Palm
Family Arecaceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards The raw fruit is poisonous and is crushed for use as fish poison[299 ].
Habitats Lowland coastal freshwater swamps, where it can grow in water up to 1 metre deep, and river banks. The soils of Nigerian freshwater swamps are light textured and generally acidic[299 , 314 , 418 ].
Range Western tropical Africa - Sierra Leone to Central African Republic and Zaire, south to Angola.
Edibility Rating    (3 of 5)
Other Uses    (4 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Moist Soil Wet Soil Full sun
Raphia hookeri Ivory Coast Raffia Palm

Raphia hookeri Ivory Coast Raffia Palm


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Raphia hookeri or commonly known as Ivory Coast Raffia Palm is a palm species native to Africa that can be about 10m in height. It is characterized by its compound pinnate leaves with each leaf reaching about 12m long, shiny dark green, and feather-like. It is a solitary palm and usually up to 30cm in stem diameter. The flowers and the top-shaped fruits are brown in color. A monocarpic plant, Ivory Coast Raffia Palm produces inflorescence only once then dies. The fruit is used in traditional medicine as laxative and liniment for pains. The plant has edible uses. Sap from the trunk is fermented into palm wine and fruits are boiled and eaten. The fruits, however, are poisonous if consumed raw. Other edible parts are the apical bud, starch obtained from the stem, and fruit oil. Further, among its many uses, Ivory Coast Raffia Palm is a source of a soft but strong fiber which is used to make mats, hats, baskets, hammocks, etc. Such fiber can also be made into paper. The leaves are used as thatching material while the leaf midribs and leaf stalks are used as poles and to construct the framework of houses. The wood is used for construction.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of cone
Raphia hookeri is an evergreen Tree growing to 10 m (32ft) by 7 m (23ft) at a fast rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 10.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils. Suitable pH: mildly acid and neutral soils and can grow in very acid soils.
It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist or wet soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Raphia angolensis Rendle Raphia gigantea A.Chev. Raphia longirostris Becc. Raphia maxima Pechu?l-Loe

Plant Habitats

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Apical bud  Flowers  Fruit  Oil  Sap  Stem
Edible Uses: Drink  Oil  Sweetener

The sap from the trunk is fermented to make palm wine, which is a very popular drink in west Africa[297 , 299 ]. When fresh, the sap tastes like ginger beer. The alcohol content of the sap increases from less than 2% to about 5% during the first 8 days of tapping, remaining constant thereafter[299 ]. It is obtained from the inflorescence[301 ]. It is tapped from the stem when the tree nears the flowering stage[299 ]. The sap can be obtained either by cutting down the trunk and allowing the sap to drain out, or by boring a hole in the trunk near the apex[297 ]. Palm wine is obtained by piercing the base of the terminal bud, which leads eventually to the death of the palm[418 ]. The wine is distilled into a strong alcoholic liquor and can also be used as bakers' yeast[299 ]. Fruit - boiled and eaten[297 , 299 ]. Poisonous raw[299 ]. The apical bud is cooked and used like cabbage[299 , 301 ]. Harvesting this bud will eventually cause the death of the trunk because it is unable to make side branches[K ]. An edible starch is obtained from the stem[301 ]. An oil is obtained from the fruit[297 ].

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Laxative  Stomachic

The oily mesocarp of the fruit is used in traditional medicine for its laxative and stomachic properties and as a liniment for pains[299 ].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Basketry  Broom  Charcoal  Fencing  Fibre  Furniture  Oil  Paper  Plant support  Roofing  String  Thatching  Weaving  Wood

Agroforestry Uses: In Nigeria, the plant sometimes serves as support for yams[299 ]. In Benin, tomatoes, cassava, sugar cane, red pepper and other crops are sometimes grown on earth ridges in Raphia hookeri swamps[299 ]. Other Uses Raffia, a soft but strong fibre, is obtained by pulling off ribbon-like strips from the upper surface of the leaflets of young unfolding leaves. It is used to make mats, hats, baskets, bags, ropes, hammocks, ceremonial costumes, etc[297 , 299 ]. It may be woven into cloth[299 ]. In Europe it is used as tying material for horticulture and handicrafts[299 ]. Raffia fibre has been considered as a potential source of pulp for paper production[299 ]. The tough fibre (known as piassava) obtained from the petioles and leaf sheaths, is used for making brooms[46 , 297 ]. It is used for the roller brushes employed in sweeping streets; for making mats, bags, hammocks, ropes, etc[418 ]. A tough, weather-resistant, coarse rope can also be made from this fibre[297 , 299 ]. Piassava fibre is also used to make exceptionally strong paper[299 ]. A very fine-textured charcoal, much favoured for the manufacture of home-made gunpowder, can be made from the fibre[299 ]. Piassava fibre is water resistant, hard-wearing, and has the right balance between stiffness and elasticity to give a firm stroke to a broom and sufficient spring action to make the broom self-cleaning. Mature leaves yield higher quality piassava fibre than younger leaves[299 ]. The large midribs of the leaves, and the leaf stalks, are widely used by native people to construct the framework of houses, as poles for various uses and for making into furniture, ladders etc[46 , 297 , 299 ]. They can be split into strips for maing screens, weaving into mats, baskets etc[297 , 299 ]. The leaves, split lengthwise, are used for thatching, though they last only 1 year[299 ]. They are also used to make mats, baskets and other articles of wickerwork, and are used for hut-walls and fences[299 ]. Wood - used for construction[297 ]. The stem can be used in house-building, both for the framework and roof-poles and also for furniture frames; the outer splints are used for heavy mat screens, hut partitions and ceilings[418 ]. The wood can be used after the sap has been allowed to drain[297 ].

Special Uses

Carbon Farming  Food Forest

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Industrial Crop: Fiber  Management: Standard  Regional Crop  Staple Crop: Oil  Staple Crop: Sugar

A plant of the wet, lowland tropics, where it is found at elevations up to 200 metres. It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are within the range 24 - 30°c, but can tolerate 14 - 36°c[418 ]. It prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range 3,000 - 4,000mm, but tolerates 2,000 - 5,000mm[418 ]. Requires a hot, sunny position in a moist soil[314 ]. Prefers a pH in the range 5 - 6, tolerating 4.5 - 6.5[418 ]. Dislikes saline soils[299 ]. Plants can tolerate being in flooded ground[314 ]. A monocarpic plant - growing for several years without flowering, then producing a massive inflorescence and dying after setting seed[200 ]. Inflorescences are produced more or less simultaneously in the axils of the most distal leaves. Tapping for wine may damage the developing inflorescence, making flowering impossible and accelerating death[299 ]. The time from planting to flowering in Raphia hookeri is 3 - 7 years[299 ]. Managed stands are mostly left to rejuvenate naturally by seed. In Nigeria, selected trees are left untapped for this purpose[299 ].

Carbon Farming

  • Industrial Crop: Fiber  Clothing, rugs, sheets, blankets etc. Currently, almost none of our fiber are produced from perennial crops but could be!
  • Management: Standard  Plants grow to their standard height. Harvest fruit, seeds, or other products. Non-Destructive management systems.
  • Regional Crop  These crops have been domesticated and cultivated regionally but have not been adopted elsewhere and are typically not traded globally, Examples in this broad category include perennial cottons and many nuts and staple fruits.
  • Staple Crop: Oil  (0-15 percent protein, 16+ percent oil). Some of these are consumed whole while others are exclusively pressed for oil. Annuals include canola, poppyseed, maize, cottonseed, sunflower, peanut. Perennials include high-oil fruits, seeds, and nuts, such as olive, coconut, avocado, oil palm, shea, pecan, and macadamia. Some perennial oil crops are consumed whole as fruits and nuts, while others are exclusively pressed for oil (and some are used fresh and for oil).
  • Staple Crop: Sugar  Perennial sugar crops include sugarcane and compare favorably to annuals.

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

Temperature Converter

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Plant Propagation

Seed - pre-soak for 24 hours in warm water and sow in containers. The seed requires several months to germinate[297 ]. The germination period may range from 1 - 24 months, and the germination rate from 30 - 60%. Young plants are easily transplanted[299 ]. It has been claimed that seeds should be sown ventral side upwards, because the embryo is located on this side, but research has shown that seed orientation does not influence germination or seedling growth[299 ].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Gba'baka, Ivory Coast raphia palm, Raffia palm, Wine palm,

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Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Equatorial Guinea; Congo; Angola; Côte d'Ivoire; Liberia; Nigeria; Sierra Leone; Central African Republic; Cameroon; Gambia; Gabon; Congo, The Democratic Republic of the; Benin; Ghana; Guinea; Togo, Africa, Asia, Australia, Benin, Cameroon, Central Africa, Congo DR, Congo R, Côte d'Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinée, India, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Togo, West Africa,

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : This taxon has not yet been assessed

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Raphia fariniferaRaffia PalmTree25.0 9-12 FLMHNMWe304
Raphia palma-pinusThatch palmTree10.0 10-12 FLMHSNMWe024
Raphia viniferaWine Raffia Palm. Wine PalmTree6.0 10-12 MLMHNM303

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


Expert comment


G.Mann. & H.Wendl.

Botanical References

Links / References

For a list of references used on this page please go here
A special thanks to Ken Fern for some of the information used on this page.

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