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Hyphaene thebaica - (L.) Mart.

Common Name Doum Palm. Gingerbread palm.
Family Arecaceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards None known
Habitats Open grasslands and desert[314 ].
Range Africa - Mauritania and Senegal to Egypt, Djibouti, Eritrea and Sudan.
Edibility Rating    (2 of 5)
Other Uses    (3 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Well drained soil Moist Soil Full sun
Hyphaene thebaica Doum Palm. Gingerbread palm.
Hyphaene thebaica Doum Palm. Gingerbread palm.


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Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of shrub
Hyphaene thebaica is an evergreen Shrub growing to 10 m (32ft) by 8 m (26ft) at a slow rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 10.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in nutritionally poor soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in saline soils.
It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers dry or moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Chamaeriphes crinite (Gaertn.) Kuntze Chamaeriphes thebaica (L.) Kuntze Corypha thebaica L. Cucifera thebaica (L.) Delile Douma thebaica (L.) Poir. Hyphaene baikieana Furtado Hyphaene crinita Gaertn. Hyphaene dahomeensis Becc. Hyphaene dankaliensis Becc. Hyphaene nodularia Becc. Hyphaene occidentalis Becc. Hyphaene santoana Furtado Hyphaene sinaitica Furtado Hyphaene togoensis Dammer ex Becc. Hyphaene tuleyana Furtado Palma thebaica (L.) Jacq.


Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Apical bud  Fruit  Seed
Edible Uses:

The orange fruit has a flavour of gingerbread[200 ]. It is eaten raw and is also made into sweetmeats, molasses and cakes[46 , 301 ]. The ovoid fruit is about 8cm long[335 ]. The unripe seed is eaten raw[46 , 335 ]. It needs proper preparation[301 ]. (No more details given[K ].) Rich in oil and protein[335 ]. The germinated seedlings, harvested just below the ground, are used as a vegetable[301 ]. Apical bud - cooked[301 ]. Used as a tasty cabbage[301 , 774 ]. Ashes from the stipes of trees can be used as a substitute for salt[303 ].


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.

The pounded nuts are used for dressing wounds[46 ]. The roots are used in the treatment of bilharzia[303 ]. The fruit pulp is chewed to control hypertension[303 ].


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Edible Shrubs provides detailed information, attractively presented, on over 70 shrub species. They have been selected to provide a mix of different plant sizes and growing conditions. Most provide delicious and nutritious fruit, but many also have edible leaves, seeds, flowers, stems or roots, or they yield edible or useful oil.

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Other Uses

Agroforestry Uses: Plants are normally seen as indicators of good soils with a high water table[303 ]. They are grown along river banks in order to stabilize them[303 ]. Other Uses: The leaves contain strong fibres and have a variety of uses. They are used in basket making; can be made into ropes and string; are used for making paper, coarse textiles; are made into mats, brooms, hut walls etc; used for thatching[46 , 303 ]. The root fibres, obtained after 2 - 3 days of soaking and beating of the roots, are used for making nets[303 ]. The seed has a hard, horny kernel which is sometimes used as a substitute for the vegetable ivory nut[63 ]. However, it is inferior and often has a large central cavity which limits its applications[63 ]. It is also used for making cheap buttons and is sometimes made into small perfume boxes[46 ]. A black dye is obtained from the dried bark[303 ]. The wood can be cut using an axe, but is difficult to saw due to the many fibres that constitute the wood[303 ]. Timber from the male palm is said to be better than that from the female, as it is borer and termite proof, decorative and durable. It is often used for construction, providing supports and rafters for houses, water ducts and wheels, railway sleepers, planks, fence posts and raft construction[303 ]. The trunks are sometimes used for fuel and to make charcoal[303 ]. The leaves are also sometimes burnt as fuel[303 ]. Carbon Farming - Industrial Crop: vegetable ivory. Agroforestry Services: crop shade.

Special Uses

Carbon Farming


Cultivation details

Agroforestry Services: Crop shade  Industrial Crop: Vegetable ivory  Management: Standard  Regional Crop

A surprisingly tolerant palm, found naturally in tropical and subtropical arid to semiarid areas at elevations from sea level to 1,400 metres[303 , 314 ]. It is able to tolerate temperate climates, but prefers a mean annual temperature above 28°c[303 , 314 ]. It grows wild in areas where the mean annual rainfall is 100 - 600mm, but can also tolerate growing in areas of much higher rainfall, as long as the drainage is good (there is a very large Doum palm in the Singapore Botanic Gardens)[314 ]. Requires a sunny, very well drained position[314 ]. Succeeds in a wide range of soils[303 ]. Tolerates medium salinity[303 ]. Prefers a pH in the range 6.5 - 7.5[303 ]. Established plants are very drought tolerant[314 ]. Growth is known to be relatively slow, and after germination a single strip-shaped leaf is produced, with fan-shaped leaves being produced at ground level 2 - 3 years after germination. At this stage, a new leaf is produced every 7 days and the stem is produced after 18 - 20 years[303 ]. Trees can commence fruiting when about 6 - 8 years old[303 ]. Mature trees of 6 - 8 years can produce 50 kilos of fruit per year[303 ]. A fire-resistant species, it is managed by coppicing and lopping[303 ]. A dioecious species, both male and female forms need to be grown if fruit and seed are required[303 ]. Hermaphrodite trees do occur rarely, but their fruits are smaller and sterile[303 ]. Carbon Farming - Cultivation: regional crop. Management: standard.

Carbon Farming

  • Agroforestry Services: Crop shade  Plants providing crop shade especially trees.
  • Industrial Crop: Vegetable ivory  Large hard seeds to substitute ivory.
  • 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.


Temperature Converter

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The PFAF Bookshop

Plants For A Future have a number of books available in paperback and digital form. Book titles include Edible Plants, Edible Perennials, Edible Trees, and Woodland Gardening. Our new book to be released soon is Edible Shrubs.

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Seed - best sown in containers. When planting the seed, make sure to use a very deep pot, since the seed sends down a very long trap root, or 'sinker'. Plant out into its permanent position as soon as the plant is large enough. The plant sometimes produces root suckers that can be used for propagation[774 ].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

African Doum palm, Babazla, Bar, Dom, Doum, Dum palm, Goriba, Karjim, Kunchula, Na, Poro, Sete.

Found In

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

Africa, Asia, Australia, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central Africa, Central African Republic, CAR, Chad, China, Congo, Congo DR, Côte d'Ivoire, Djibouti, East Africa, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinée, Guinea-Bissau, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, North Africa, North America, Pakistan, Palestine, Sahel, Saudi Arabia, SE Asia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, Southern Africa, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, USA, West Africa*, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe

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.

None Known

Conservation Status

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

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther

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.


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Expert comment


(L.) Mart.

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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