Hyphaene compressa

Hyphaene compressa H. Wendl., Bot. Zeitung (Berlin) 36: 116 (1878); Fl. Trop. E. Africa, Palmae: 26 (1986); Palm. Afr. 26 (1995); Fl. Ethiopia & Eritrea 6: 524 (1997); Fl. Zambes. 13(2): 56 (2010); Fl. Trop. E. Africa, Palmae: 29 (1986); Prelim. checklist vasc. pl. Mozambique 30: 120 (2004); Fl. Zambes. 13(2): 59 (2010). – Icon.: Fl. Trop. E. Africa, Palmae: 25 (1986); Palm. Afr. 154 (1995); Palms 48: 184 (2004).

Synonyms.: Chamaeriphes compressa (H. Wendl.) Kuntze; H. benadirensis Becc.; H. incoje Furtado; H. kilvaensis (Becc.) Furtado; H. mangoides Becc.; H. megacarpa Furtado; H. multiformis Becc.; H. multiformis subsp. ambigua Becc.; H. multiformis subsp. compressa (H. Wendl.) Becc.; H. multiformis subsp. deformis Becc.; H. multiformis subsp. diminuta Becc.; H. multiformis subsp. gibbosa Becc.; H. multiformis subsp. intermedia Becc.; H. multiformis subsp. kilvaensis Becc.; H. multiformis subsp. macrocarpa Becc.; H. multiformis subsp. mahengensis Becc.; H. multiformis subsp. manca Becc.; H. multiformis subsp. morogorensis Becc.; H. multiformis subsp. moshiensis Becc.; H. multiformis subsp. nasuta Becc.; H. multiformis subsp. obconica Becc.; H. multiformis subsp. obesa Becc.;    H. multiformis subsp. odorata Becc.; H. multiformis subsp. panganensis Becc.; H. multiformis subsp. plagiosperma Becc.; H. multiformis subsp. rovumensis Becc.; H. multiformis subsp. semiplaena Becc.; H. multiformis subsp. stenosperma Becc.; H. multiformis subsp. subglobosa Becc.; H. multiformis subsp. tangatensis Becc.; H. multiformis subsp. trigibba Becc.; H. multiformis subvar. lindiensis Becc.; H. semiplaena (Becc.) Furtado

Palm solitary, armed, pleonanthic, dioecious.

Stem 4-12 (-15) m tall and 20-30 (- 40) cm in diameter, solitary and branched up to a 5-order dichotomy (Figs. 1-6), sometimes apparently branching below ground and producing 2-4 stems of more or less the same height; first branching usually at 4-5 m from ground; leaf remnants usually present towards the upper region of the stem.

Leaves 10-15 per crown, costapalmate, spirally arranged, olive-green; leaf sheath 30-40 cm long; petiole 0.9-1.4 m long, 7 cm at the base and 2,5-3 cm wide towards the apex, green-yellowish, covered with marginal spines 4-5 cm from each other; leaf blade with a 45-55 cm long, strongly recurved costa; divided in 50-53 segments, basal segments 53-54 (-66) cm long, middle segments 85-96 (-114) cm long, apical segments 54-58 (-62) cm long, all segments of the blade longitudinally split at 51 cm of their length (Fig. 7).

Inflorescences unisexual, interfoliar, pistillate and staminate inflorescences similar. Male inflorescences up to 5 per crown; rachis of 45-50 cm, bearing 6-8 rachillae; visible part of the peduncle 30 cm long. Female inflorescence bearing 4 lateral, up to 25 cm long rachillae and one apical topping the inflorescence rachis; visible part of the peduncle 20 cm long.

Flowers unisexual, 3-merous. Male flowers yellow (Fig. 8); female flowers greenish (Fig. 9).

Fruits extremely polymorphic in shape and diverse in size, up to 12 cm long and 9 cm wide, orange-brown at maturity (Figs. 10, 11); eophyll linear-lanceolate, plicate.

Hyphaene compressa grows in coastal lowland regions and extends to inland areas along water courses, growing from see level to 1400 m. This species has been also reported growing in secondary vegetation.

 At least 32 different names are nowadays considered as synonyms of this extremely polymorphic species (e.g. Dransfield, 1986); most of these synonyms correspond to infraspecific taxa proposed by Beccari (1924) for a taxonomically complex H. multiformis.

 This species is endemic from East Africa. It was reported for Kenya and Tanzania and apparently extending north to Somalia and southwards to Mozambique (Dransfield, 2010). Hyphaene compressa may display some degree of hybridization with other species of Hyphaene present in its northern range of distribution (Fig. 12).

 The leaves of this palm fulfill many subsistence and economic needs of the nomadic pastoralist and agro-pastoralist communities in the northern and eastern regions of Kenya (Amwatta, 2004).

 This is a highly polymorphic palm (Dransfield, 2010) that requires further taxonomic study.

The conservation status of this species has been recently assessed by Cosiaux et al. (2017) and the category of Least Concern (LC) has been proposed. You can get detailed information on this assessment by clicking in the following link: http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/95317478/0

Fig.1. Amazing, richly branched individual of Hyphane compressa in Kenya (photo kindly shared by Mark Hyde)

Fig. 2. Hyphaene compressa thriving in the savanna of Kenya (photo kindly shared by Mark Hyde)

Fig.3. Elephants might contribute to the dispersal of Hyphaene compressa fruits in Kenya (photo kindly shared by Mark Hyde)

Fig. 4. Stand of Hyphaene compressa. In this population we observed individuals producing up to 4 dichotomies and developing almost 60 leaf crowns (road to Bagamoyo, Tanzania).

 Fig. 5.Typical individual of Hyphaene compressa. This population is heavily threatened as the area will be unfortunatelly cleared for house construction (road to Bagamoyo, Tanzania).


Fig. 6. Leaf sheaths remain on the stems of joung individuals in H. compressa. Note the strongly armed petioles (road to Bagamoyo, Tanzania).

Fig. 7. Adama Bakayoko holds an entire leaf of H. compressa; the petiole is heavily armed and the costa is strongly recurved (road to Bagamoyo, Tanzania).

Fig. 8. Fragment of male rachilla showing late male buds and male flowers at anthetic stage (road to Bagamoyo, Tanzania).

Fig. 9. Fragment of female rachilla showing female flowers at late bud stage (road to Bagamoyo, Tanzania).

Fig. 10. Ripe fruits of H. compressa; the shape and the size of the fruits is not uniform and varies within a single infructescence (road to Bagamoyo, Tanzania).

Fig. 11. Longitudinal section of a fruit of H. compressa; note the already bony endosperm of the seed and the fibrous mesocarp (road to Bagamoyo, Tanzania).

Fig. 12. Distribution of Hyphaene compressa (based on Stauffer et al., 2014)