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Distribution & Habitat:
Their natural distribution is a small area stretching from a few kilometres south of Kosi Bay to about 40 km north of Maputo. They prefer swampy ground, and are found here on seasonally inundated dunes. There is also a large population at Mtunzini but these are descended from cultivated plants.
Their most noticeable feature is their immensely long, stiffly upright leaves (Raphia have the longest leaves in the plant kingdom) up to 18m (60feet) long. The leaf bases and petioles are bright orange, and they have pneumatophores (breathing roots) like mangroves, an adaptation for swampy ground. They are very similar in appearance to R. vinifera, the main difference being that R. vinifera is a suckering species, while this one is solitary.
They provide the home, and food for the palm nut vulture, (the worlds only vegetarian vulture (not quite, they sometimes snack on the occasional small animal)), which feeds on this palm's fruit, and that of Elaeis guineensis.
Likes full sun, and bad drainage. Given these conditions, they are very fast growing, one of the fastest of all palms. If you don't have a swamp, then give them lots of water. Needs at least a sub-tropical climate.
Kyle Wicomb (Figure 1)
[[www.plantzafrica.complantqrsraphiaaust.htm" Raphia australis at PlantzAfrica