Ilala Palm, Vegetable Ivory Palm.
Scientific name: Hyphaneae petersiana / Hyphaene coriacea
Hyphaneae petersiana is a very slow growing, ascending or prostrate, evergreen palm tree eventually reaching a height of 5 metres or more. The tree is found in low-altitude bush land and coastal bush, often forming extensive stands. The leaves are fan-shaped and greyish green. Fruits are tennis ball size, ripening from green through orange to glossy dark brown. A thin layer of sweet-tasting, ginger-flavoured, spongy, fibrous pulp surrounds the seed.
The leaves are used for thatching or for weaving into mats and baskets. The young pliable leaves are harvested, with only one third of the leaf taken, so the remainder can develop fully. They are boiled and then dried in the sun to soften them for weaving and may are coloured using natural dyes. The Seed is used as a source of vegetable ivory, these seeds have very similar consistency and colouration to South American vegetable ivory and could be used for the same purposes of making ornaments and buttons.
The milk present in the young fruit is similar to coconut milk in taste and colouring. The milk is taken as drink or taken as alcoholic beverage as it said to taste like ginger beer when ripe. The young shoots of germinated seeds are eaten as a vegetable. The fruit pulp is used as a treatment for stomach-ache.
Plants succeed in moist tropical climates where temperatures never fall below 10°c, the average annual rainfall is 1,500mm or more and the driest month has 25mm or more rain. They can also succeed in drier areas with an annual rainfall as low as 250mm and one month or more where rainfall is below 25mm.
Plants grow well in full sun, even when small. Prefers growing in alluvial sands. Found in the wild on poorly drained, light, dry soils of low fertility.A suckering palm, forming a clump of trunks
Dioecious, both male and female forms need to be grown if fruit and seed are required.
The fruit pulp is used as a treatment for stomach ache.
Seed - requires high temperatures to initiate germination. Place the seeds in containers in a well-drained medium in a sunny position - do not allow the soil to dry out or become too wet. Germination can take place within 2 weeks, and requires only one week for the seedling radicle to establish in the medium below the seed. A germination rate of 66% has been attained within 3 week.