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African oil palm,
Obe palm (local name)
Distribution & Habitat:
It occurs in riverine forests and freshwater swamps from Guinea to the Senegal River, south to Angola and east to the Alberto Lake. Distinct populations are also found in Madagascar.
A large majestic robust solitary pinnate palm to almost 20m tall, with irregularly spaced wide shiny very deep forest green leaflets. Produces large bunches of bright red fruit.
This very dark green shiny leaved African palm makes an immensely large highly attractive shade palm for any large garden or park or as an avenue palm, especially the non-commercial selections as they are lighter fruit bearers. Very fast growing from seed in ideal tropical climates, fruits before it trunks. Used commercially for the production of high quality palm oil, which comes from the seed kernel. Plantations of this palm now cover vast areas of Malaysia, which has become the worlds leading producer of this oil. This has unfortunately tarnished this highly attractive, magnificent palms image as vast tracts of tropical forests are being destroyed for monoculture to produce palm oil.
Generally sunny position, in deep moist well drained fertile rich acidic loamy soil for best results. Seedling and juveniles are grown under 50% shade until they are hardened off to be planted in the field. Ideal PH is between 4-6, they will not tolerate alkaline soil turning yellow and die, in deep water logged peaty soils potassium deficiency can also lead to premature die off of fronds as well as a chronic nitrogen and copper deficiency. Given ideal tropical conditions, continuous high humidity, warmth, rainfall and deep leaf litter plus undisturbed top soil they will happily grow in shade and forest margins with root competition from surrounding trees. It is frequently seen as an understory or emergent palm in dense forest in areas where it has become naturalised like Singapore. Sensitive to some fungal and other soil pathogens so dead tree stumps nearby can be detrimental for cultivation so are best removed or burnt into the ground. Being so large and fast growers in the tropics, young palms can produce up to thirty new leaves a year, they are greedy feeders of water, fertiliser, and mulch to look their very best. They require at least warm wet sub-tropical conditions to thrive. The biomass produced by falling fruit is substantially reduced in less than optimal conditions but not the extremely attractive shady canopy if grown well. Dead leaves need to be regularly trimmed.
Only produces commercially viable quantities of oil within 8° either side of the Equator where it is cultivated free from competition from other plants under full sunlight for maximum yield.
Mike Gray (Figure 1)
Kyle Wicomb (Figure 2)