Field Mission to Senegal (2019)

Didier Roguet, Fred Stauffer and Matteo Auger-Micou from CJB, and Patrick Griffith and Larry Noblick from Montgomery Botanical Center (MBC) are currently undertaking a field mission to Senegal (March 1 - 11) searching for wild palm populations. This mission is also supported by Mr. Abdoul Aziz Camara and Louise Agathe from the herbarium of the University Cheikh Anta Diop (Dakar), local expert on floristics. The main goal of our visit to this country include field work in the forested region of Casamance, towards the border with Guinea. Photos were taken by Didier Roguet.

Day 1

Visit to the Botanical Garden of the Park of Hann, almost the only green area in whole Dakar. This garden is scientifically and technically supported by the Conservatory and Botanic Gardens of Geneva with the generous funding of the North-South Cooperation program of the City of Geneva. Mr. Assane Insa Mane (Director of the Environmental Education Center of the Parc Hann) welcomes Patrick Griffith and Larry Noblick, who will make an important donation of seed (25 different palm species).

Family picture just at the entrance of the Ethnobotanic Garden.

We were checking at some palm seedlings and discussing the areas where the new palms donated by the MBC may be introduced.

Some seed of Hyphaene thebaica that we brought from the Matam region in the frame of our last mission to Senegal is starting to germinate. Some discussions about that were undertaken with the palm experts of MBC.

General view of the garden, in particular showing large individuals of Copernicia and Washingtonia

Patrick Griffith and Larry Noblick make the donation of 25 new palm species for the Park Hann. Mr. Assane Insa Mane was happy to get this important collection of seed, which will be planted as soon as possible in the nursery of the garden.  Some of the palms donated include the genera Acoelorraphe, Coccotrhinax, Copernicia, Hyphaene, Sabal and Syagrus, among others.

Day 2

Arrival to the Airport of Ziguinchor after a 50 min flight from Dakar. Patrick and Larry start enjoying the tropical weather of this regions of Senegal.

Meeting at the Office of Water and Forests (Region of Ziguinchor). Commandant Mamadou Goudiaby is giving to us all kind of hints to make of our mission a huge success. This meeting was important in order to contact forest rangers and villagers all over the Casamance

From Bignona we visited several villages where handcrafts are made of Borassus aethiopum leaves. Matteo is gathering critical ethnobotanical information for his master project.

These women are selecting and cleaning fruits of Elaeis guineensis that will be pressed to obtain oil palm. The fruits and the seeds are relatively small.

First palm collected in Casamance in the frame of our mission. Patrick manipulates the telescopic pole saw in order to collect fruits of Borassus aethiopum, locally known as "rônier"

Collection of Borassus aethiopum for the herbaria of Dakar and Geneva. Matteo and Louise carefully check at the different techniques used to collect masssive palms

The whole team stands in the middle of a population of Borassus aethiopum

Back to our car with a real treasure of collections and ethnobotanical objects. Day 2 was a complete success.

Day 3

Collecting  a male individual of Phoenix reclinata, a palm that will be soon prove to be rather rare in the region.

Detail of the male inflorescence of Phoenix reclinata. It is rather scentless and the pollen extremy powdery.

Back to the car with a complete collection of Phoenix reclinata, the so-called savanna date palm

Matteo starts collecting and measuring the leaf of Phoenix reclinata. This collection is critical for his study on the native palms of Senegal

A bunch of fruits of oil palm (Elaeis guineensis) is being studied by the whole team in one of the villages North of Ziguinchor.

Freshly pressed oil palm obtained from Elaeis guineensis. Families produce this oil in a small scale and only a small amount commercialized

Water container weaved from leaves of Borassus aethiopum (town of Dianki).

End of day 3 of field work in the Casamance. It is 6 pm and we are crossing the bridge on the Casamance river on our way to Ziguinchor.

Day 4

One more visit to an office of the Senegalese Office of Water and Forests. In these places we are now used to get more or less precise information on the places to go and the palm populations to be visited.

In one amazing place we spotted Calamus deerratus (Larry taking pictures of one of them), but we also collected an undetermined species of Raphia and some juveniles of Laccosperma secundiflora.

Fruits of Calamus deerratus (not yet fully developed). A complete specimen will be deposited in the herbaria of Dakar and Geneva.

Patrick, Larry and Fred heading to a palm stand of the udetermined species of Raphia.

On the road Ziguinchor-Tanaf we stopped on the road side to see a furtinure maker. This man and his son produce bed frames and chairs made of Borassus aethiopum petioles.

Matteo is busy undertaking his ethnobotanical survey. The whole family of the furniture maker came to see the Senegalese-American-Swiss commision.

More ethnobotanical survey on the road Ziguinchor-Tanaff.

It is 6 pm and already at the Hotel Moya in Kolda we are pressing our precious material. Matteo and Louise feel now more confident pressing palms.

Patrick undertakes the heavy work of cleaning and peeling Borassus aethiopum seeds collected two days ago

Day 5

Day 5th was mainly a market day, in seach of all kind of objects made of leaves, petioles or rachis of palms. This street market is organized every wednesday and gathers people from Senegal and bordering Guinea Bissau. Didier, Mattieu and Louise participated in the ethnobotanical  survey.

Not only palm objects are commercialized in the market, tomatos, chili peppers and herbs are also present. This market is very colorful and our researchers gathered very interesting ethnobotanical data.

Sieves of many different sizes are made of petioles of Borassus aethiopum.

Visiting a palm stand of Borassus aethiopum. We got ethnobotanical information from a forest ranger. This picture was taken only a few km from the border with Guinea Bissau.

Palm stand of Elaeis guineensis. This is one of the most important palms of the Casamance and its uses range from palm wine tapping to mat weaving or roofing. The oil extracted from the mesocarp or the seeds are very much appreciated.

Local village of Peul people. These traditional houses are also present in the Casamance region, otherwise largely dominated by the Diola ethnic group.

Beautiful sunset at Kolda. End of day 5!

Day 6

Magical place not far from a village on the road Kolda-Diana Marali. Following the recommendations of the Water and Forests officer we went to see palm wine tapping production from oil palm (Elaeis guineensis). We were very keen to see this place.

This man gets not only palm wine but also infructescences of the oil palm. We were able to get precise data on how the sap is tapped and the complex technique to climb these palms.

The funnel-shape enroled leaflet is attached to the peduncle of the inflorescence and the liquid sap drops on a plastic bottle. The palm sap is gathered early in the morning (about 4h am), before it has started fermentation

Funnel-shaped enroled leaf used to direct the sap to the plastic bottle attached to the peduncle of the infructescence. These funnels are made of palm oil leaflets

A climbing device is made of the rachis of the oil palm. It is simple but efficient. One of these devices was bought for the ethnobotanical collection of the CBJG.

The man is here climbing the palm in a rather fast way. He reached the crown of the palm in only a few seconds, clearly confident on his unique technique. We benefited of his skills and asked him to get one leaf and an infructescence for our collections

The Elaeis guineensis infructescence was cut in the middle and we can see the whole fruit and details of sectioned seeds. From the orange mesocarp it is obtained the palm oil, whereas the palmist oil is obtained from the seed.

Day 7

Short visit to the street market in Ziguinchor. Although not many objects were found we were able to get some baskets and sieves.

Shores of the Casamance river. We were looking after some populations of Phoenix reclinata. The officers  of the National Parks from Senegal showed to us this very interesting spot, not far from Mlomp, north of Oussoye.

Male individuals at anthesis and some at early fruiting stageindividuals were collected in this site.

Matteo and Louise measure and section all the necessary material for the herbaria of Dakar and Geneva

Louise Agathe holds a joung infructescence of Phoenix reclinata, a very wide spread species in continental Africa

Details of joung fruits of the savanna date palm (Phoenix reclinata).

Day 8

This is a big day for us!, we will try to approach the National Park Basse Casamance, although it is clear that rebels and landmines would be strong arguments not to go there. The forest rangers of the National Park advised us to reach a neighboring village where some rattan palms may be collected

Amazing grocery store at Oussoye where we will get some food before visiting surrounding areas of the National Park. This was kind of nice experience as we all got tin can sardines!

In this great place we found Calamus deerratus and Phoenix dactylifera. Patrick was very surprised to find both, fruits of the rattan palm and also of the wild date palm.

We got very interesting specimens for the herbaria of Dakar and Geneva. As this is the last day in the field in the frame of our field mission in Senegal we were extremely pleased to visit this place.

On our way back to Oussouye we saw some beautiful stands of Elaeis guineensis, the very famous oil palm native from Ouest Africa

Leaves of Borassus aethiopum in this area are extracted for manufacturing all kind of products, in particular baskets.

Great picture of Didier Roguet displaying the gathering of palm wine sap from Elaeis guineensis. The bottles are normally collected by 4h00 in the morning

At the Hotel Flamboyant Matteo asks Abdoul Asis Camara and Louis Agathe about some of the localities visited. The labels of all the specimens gathered will be soon produced and the required of this critical information.