Elaeis guineensis

From Palmpedia

Jump to: navigation, search

Elaeis (eh-l'eh-iss)
Picture 1192 male flowers.jpg
Vietnam. Male flowers.
Scientific Classification
Genus: Elaeis (eh-l'eh-iss)
None set.
Native Continent
Habit: Solitary
Leaf type: Pinnate
Survivability index
Common names
Dondo Angola, (Burmese): si-htan, si-ohn.

(Creole) : crocro, crocro guinee (English) : African oil palm, guinea oil palm, oil palm, wild oil palm (French) : corojo de Guinea, corossier, crocro, Crocro guinée, palmier a huile (German) : Ölpalme, Steinfrüchte (Luganda) : mubira, munazi (Malay) : kelapa sawit (Mandinka) : tango, tee, tego, tengo (Spanish) : coroco, corojo de Guinea, corozo (Swahili) : mchikichi, miwesi, mjenga (Thai) : pan namman (Trade name) : wild oil palm

(Vietnamese) : co dâu, dua dâu

If you know anything at all about this palm, please consider adding some information. Remember this is a group effort, and any registered member can contribute, change, or correct the text, and even add photos on this page. Click on the edit tab above and experiment. Any mistake can be easily corrected, so don't be afraid.


Habitat and Distribution

Angola, Benin, Bismarck Archipelago, Burkina, Burundi, Cameroon, Caroline Is., Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Congo, Costa Rica, Fiji, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Malaya, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Society Is., Sri Lanka, Sumatera, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zaire. Native to W Africa, but planted throughout the tropics for its oil-rich fruits which are a major source of plant oil on a world scale (Hartley, 1977). In Ecuador it is grown in large plantations below 500 m elevation, particularly in the Santo Domingo-Quinind area.


Elaeis guineensis is a handsome tree reaching a height of 20 m or more at maturity. The trunk is characterized by persistent, spirally arranged leaf bases and bears a crown of 20-40 massive leaves. The root system consists of primaries and secondaries in the top 140 cm of soil. Leaves numerous, erect, spreading to drooping, long, reaching 3-5 m in adult trees; leaf stalks short with a broad base. Spiny, fibrous projections exist along the leaf margins from the leaf sheath, wearing away on old leaves to jagged spines. Leaf blades have numerous (100-160 pairs), of long leaflets with prominent midribs, tapered to a point; arranged in groups or singly along the midrib, arising sometimes in different planes. Male and female inflorescences occur on 1 plant; sometimes a single inforescence contains both male and female flowers. Inflorescences arise among the leaf bases in large, very dense clusters, with innumerable small flowers, enclosed in the bud stage in 2 large fibrous bracts, which finally become deciduous. Male flowers single or in pairs in recesses on the branchlets, each with 3 sepals, 3 petals with edges touching in bud, 6 stamens, and a small, sterile pistil. Female flowers subtended by 2-3 small bracts, with 3 sepals, 3 petals overlapping in bud in a ring of small, sterile stamens, and a 3-celled ovary with 3 spreading stigmas. Fruits borne in bunches. The average weight of each bunch is 23 kg, but a bunch may weigh up to 82 kg. A bunch contains between 200 and 2000 sessile ovoid drupes, 4 cm long and 2 cm broad, with pointed apex. The fruit coat colour varies from yellow to orange or nearly black. Four oil palm varieties have been distinguished on the basis of the fruit structure, especially the thickness of the endocarp: E. g. var. macrocarpa with 40-60% shell, E. guineensis var. dura with 20-40% shell, E. g. var. tenera with 5-20% shell and E. guineensis var. pisifera, a shelless form. The generic name comes from the Greek word ‘elaion’ (oil), referring to the oil extracted from the palm. (Borchsenius, F. 1998)/Palmweb. Editing by edric.


Sunny, moist, but well drained position. Tropical in its requirements.

Comments and Curiosities

Hybrids between this species and Elaeis oleifera are easily made and six hundred hectares have been planted with hybrid individuals in Ecuador (Carri�n & Cuvi, 1985). These plants have an erect stem and regularly inserted pinnae borne in one plane. (Borchsenius, F. 1998)/Palmweb.

History of cultivation: E. guineensis, a native of forested portions of western and central Africa, particularly along rivers, has been spread across Africa by human migrations or intergroup exchange. It may have first been domesticated in Chad, taken to the Congo Basin and eastern Africa long before the arrival of Europeans, and to Sudan 5000 years ago. Africans probably took E. guineensis to Madagascar in the 10th century, the same time it is thought to have been established on the southern coast of Kenya, Pemba and Zanzibar. The Dutch introduced it to Southeast Asia. The Bogor Botanic Garden received some seedlings in 1848 from Amsterdam Botanical Gardens. The progeny from this introduction were planted initially between 1880 and 1900 as ornamentals on tobacco estates around Deli and Medan and laid the foundation for the oil palm industry in Southeast Asia. The Singapore Botanic Garden received seeds from Java in 1870, and this helped to diffuse E. guineensis throughout Malaysia and into Sumatra. As markets for oil palm expanded in Europe, the exotic E. guineensis was cultivated on plantation scale starting in 1911. The 1st plantations were established in Malaysia in 1917. In India it was first introduced in 1834 in the botanic garden in Calcutta, and trial plantings were started in 1930 in Kerala. The 1st commercial plantings were started in Kerala in the 1970s. Slave traders took E. guineensis to the New World, but until recently it has not been cultivated to any extent except in Bahia, Brazil. Natural Habitat: It is difficult to determine the natural habitat of the oil palm because, while it does not grow in primeval forest, it flourishes in habitats where forests have been cleared. It requires a relatively open area to grow and reproduce itself and thrives best when soil moisture is maintained. Normally, E. guineensis occurs in disturbed forests and along rivers and streams, both in its native range in West Africa and in some introduced areas. It is a succession species favoured by slash and burn, and its gene pool has expanded as farmers clear land and create more open habitat for the germination of its seeds.

Geographic distribution; Native : Cameroon, Cote d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Uganda. Exotic : China, Colombia, Congo, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Madagascar, Malaysia, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Togo, Venezuela, Zanzibar

Biophysical limits; Altitude: Up to 900 m, Mean annual temperature: 27-35 deg. C, Mean annual rainfall: 2000-3000 mm Soil type: It has a fibrous root system and benefits from deep soils that are fertile, free from iron concretions and well drained. It also tolerates a fair range of soil pH (4-6), although neutral soils are favourable.

Reproductive Biology: Male and female flowers are borne on the same plant but open at different times, so that cross-pollination is necessary. A male inflorescence contains 700-1200 flowers and may yield 80 g of pollen over a 5-day period. The female flower is larger and receptive to pollen for 36-48 hours. Honeybees are attracted by the pollen scented like anise seed, which they collect as they gather nectar. It has not been established whether the bees contribute to pollination. However, The weevil Elaeidobius kamerunicus has been found to be a successful pollinator. Fruit development commences immediately after fertilization. Black vultures (Coragypt atratus) feed avidly on E. guineensis and are involved in its dispersal.

Oil palm (Elaeis guineensis Jacq.) is one of the most important oil bearing crops in the world. However, genetic improvement of oil palm through conventional breeding is extremely slow and costly, as the breeding cycle can take up to 10 years. This has brought about interest in vegetative propagation of oil palm. Since the introduction of oil palm tissue culture in the 1970s, clonal propagation has proven to be useful, not only in producing uniform planting materials, but also in the development of the genetic engineering programme. Despite considerable progress in improving the tissue culture techniques, the callusing and embryogenesis rates from proliferating callus cultures remain very low. Thus, understanding the gene diversity and expression profiles in oil palm tissue culture is critical in increasing the efficiency of these processes.

External Links


Phonetic spelling of Latin names by edric.

Special thanks to Geoff Stein, (Palmbob) for his hundreds of photos, edric.

Special thanks to, Dr. John Dransfield, Dr. Bill Baker & team, for their volumes of information and photos, edric.

Glossary of Palm Terms; Based on the glossary in Dransfield, J., N.W. Uhl, C.B. Asmussen-Lange, W.J. Baker, M.M. Harley & C.E. Lewis. 2008. Genera Palmarum - Evolution and Classification of the Palms. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. All images copyright of the artists and photographers (see images for credits).

Borchsenius, F.1998. Manual to the palms of Ecuador. AAU Reports 37. Department of Systematic Botany, University of Aarhus, Denmark in collaboration with Pontificia Universidad Catalica del Ecuador.

Back to Palm Encyclopedia

Personal tools