Raphia sese – a very special Raphia palm

Raphia sese (Arecaceae)

Common names: Nsaku (Kongo = knife with a long blade), ba di magangu (Kongo).

Description

A palm which grows in dense clumps up to 10 m tall. Female flowers are produced at the base and male flowers higher up the spike.

Ecology

Found in certain marshy sites. It is also present in the central forest zone of D.R. Congo.

Uses

The pulp around the seeds is edible and contains a yellow-orange oil composed of over 70% unsaturated fatty acids (compared with 55% for palm oil). The fruits are piled up and covered with branches and foliage until mature. The scales surrounding the flesh are then removed by soaking or by boiling the fruits in water. The flesh is eaten as a condiment and to regulate sugar intake for diabetes. The leaf stalks were traditionally used to make nsaku (a knife with a long blade). Wine is also obtained from the stems. Honeybees collect nectar from some species and may be responsible for pollination.

The peeled fruits and nuts.

Konda ku Mbuta (left) with fruits after removal of the outer scales. The flesh is eaten with cassava. The nuts are discarded.

References

Gillet & Paque 1910, Renier 1948, Crane & Walker 1984, Pauwels 1993, Kanika et al. 2004, Biloso & Lejoly 2006, Kibungu Kembelo 2010

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