Hyphaene macrosperma

Hyphaene macrosperma H. Wendl., Bot. Zeitung (Berlin) 39: 92 (1881).

Synonym: Chamaeriphes macrosperma (H. Wendl.) Kuntze

This species is currently taxonomically accepted and reported as endemic to Benin (Govaerts et al. 2017). The original description of this palm was proposed by the celebrated German botanists H. Wendland (1881) based on a single fruit. Wendland indicated that the original material that he studied was collected in “Central Afrika” by Mr. Baiki; we suppose that he meant William Balfour Baikie (1825-1864), a Scottish explorer who visited the river Niger and many of its tributaries in at least two different expeditions.

According to Wendland original description of the species, the fruit is ovate to rather obtuse, very fla at the top, slightly swollen on the ventral side, 7 cm long and 6 cm in diameter, resembling that of H. thebaica but more round in shape, and more obtuse and duller in color. The seed was described as round to ovoid, 45 mm long and 40 x 45 mm in diameter. The Florentine botanist Odoardo Beccari (1908) indicated that he studied the type specimen proposed by Wendland and compared it with its original descriptions. He noticed that it did match well with the descriptions of Hyphaene dahomeensis Becc., which has been proposed by several authors (i.e. Tuley, 1995; Stauffer et al., 2014; Govaerts et al., 2017) as a synonym of H. thebaica.

Although many repports indicate that the species is endemic to Benin, its origin should be further verified as it may be also attributed to Nigeria. Additional information on this intriguing species may be found in any of the travel reports produced by Baikie. The ecology of this species remains unknown and no information was provided in the original description of the species. In the frame of a palm inventory in Benin and Togo during 2015-2016 the student Loïc Michon (Conservatory and Botanic Gardens of Geneva – University of Geneva), could not found this palm. The only populations of this genus that were seen in the northern regions of these countries correspond to H. thebaica. Indeed, we cannot rule out that H. macrosperma, longtime regarded as an independent, yet poorly known taxonomic entity, could be rather interpreted as a morphologic variant of the widely distributed H. thebaica.

No uses have been reported for this species.

The conservation status of this species has been recently assessed by Cosiaux et al. (2017) and the category of Data Deficient (DD) has been proposed. You can get detailed information on this assessment by clicking in the following link: http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/44392560/0

Fig. 1. Distribution of Hyphaene macrosperma (based on Stauffer et al., 2014)