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close this bookTraditional Food Plants of Kenya (National Museum of Kenya, 1999, 288 p.)
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Borassus aethiopum Mart.

Palmae (Arecaceae)

Boni: ong Chonyi: mnazi, nazi (fruit) Digo: dzova, mvumo, ngolokolo (fruit), Duruma: mugumo English: borassus palm, African fan palm, palmyra palm, deleb palm Giriama: mugumo Kambe: mnazi, nazi (fruit) Luhya (Tachoni): mnazi Malakote: murifate Meru: mungthi Orma: marafa Somali: mardafa (Tana River) Swahili: mvumo, mtapa, mchapa Teso: edukut, edukudukut

Description: A strikingly tall unbranched palm to 25 m high. Trunk: Smooth to rough, grey, widening high up above the middle. Leaf scars prominent immediately below crown, less prominent below. LEAVES: Fan-shaped, very large, to 2.5 m long, upper half divided into many folded leaf segments. FLOWERS: Green, dioecious. FRUIT: Large, up to 15 cm long by 12 cm wide, smooth, slightly elongate, orange to orange-brown, containing up to 3 seeds surrounded by a fibrous pulp.

Ecology: Widespread throughout the less dry areas of tropical Africa. Open grassland with a high water-table, along watercourses, flood plains, coastal coral sands, often in dense stands. Found at the coast in Kenya, e.g. at Madunguni (Kilifi), Gede ruins and in Shimba forest, western Kenya and around Mandera, 0-1,400 m. Zones III-IV.

Uses: FOOD: Fruit pulp and seed edible (Digo, Giriama) (++). The immature seeds are eaten. Germinating seedlings are reportedly eaten (Uganda). Excellent palm wine, dzova (Digo) is made from sap tapped from inflorescence penducles (stalks). It is reputedly the best palm wine in Africa with a high sugar content (Uganda).

OTHER: Leaves are used in the mat and basket industry. The trunk is tough and termite-resistant. It is used as poles, in construction and as beehives.

Management: Propagated by seed which are best sown directly on site. Grows fast when young but very slowly later. Fallen seeds root easily in humid soil. Root develops well before shoot is seen.

Status: Generally rare but may be locally common. Over-exploitation of the palm for its wood and sap has led to its decline in most areas where it grows.

Remarks: Another palm used for wine production is Elaeis guineensis Jacq. (English: oil palm, Guinea oil palm, Swahili: mchikichi, mjenga, Digo: mchikichi, Pokomo: mchanga, Sanya: metsengwa, Taveta: mposi). It is a tree palm to 15 m high. Young stems covered with persistent leaf bases which are shed with age leaving ridges of scars on the trunk. LEAVES: Dark green, long, borne in a terminal crown. Leaflets with spiny margins. FLOWERS: Monoecious, borne in the leaf axils. Riverine. Uses: An important oil crop (seeds) in West Africa but not in Kenya. Oil is used in the manufacture of margarine, soap and as a lubricant. Palm wine is tapped from the palm in Uganda and West Africa but not in Kenya. Unlike Borassus, the wood is not durable. A rare species in Kenya.


Figure


Figure

Another important palm is Cocos nucifera (English: coconut palm, Giriama: mnazi, Kamba: munathi, Sanya: madhi, Swahili: mnazi, nazi (fruit)). This palm is grown all over the tropics in hot humid coastal areas and has been cultivated for a long time. In Kenya it is grown along the coastal strip and in a few inland areas as an ornamental plant (Lake Turkana, Lake Victoria, Kitui). An important source of wine, food, thatching material, building poles, fuelwood, shade, oil, leaves for handicrafts and a host of other traditional uses. The oily extract from the coconut flesh, tui (Swahili), is used for flavouring food. It is added to the dish only in the last 5-10 minutes of cooking to avoid boiling and curdling.


Elaeis guineensis


Cocos nucifera