Author: Jan Scholten
Botany: 20 species; Africa, Madagascar; long compound pinnate leaves, 25 m long and 3 m wide; monocarpic; dying after the seeds are mature or hapaxanthic, individual stems dying after fruiting but the root system remaining alive.
English: West African piassava palm; Bamboo palm; West African bass fibre.
Content: bitter oil, stupefying fish.
Raffia palms (Raphia) are a genus of about twenty species of palms native to tropical regions of Africa, and especially Madagascar, with one species (R. taedigera) also occurring in Central and South America. R. taedigera is the source of raffia fibers, which are the veins of the leaves, and this species produces a fruit called "brazilia pods", "uxi nuts" or "uxi pods".
They grow up to 16 m (52.5 ft) tall and are remarkable for their compound pinnate leaves, the longest in the plant kingdom; leaves of R. regalis up to 25 m (82.38 ft) long and 3 m (9.84 ft) wide are known. The plants are monocarpic, meaning that they flower once and then die after the seeds are mature. Some species have individual stems which die after fruiting, but have a root system which remains alive and sends up new stems which fruit.