Hyphaene reptans Becc., Agric. Colon. 2: 151 (1908); Fl. Trop. E. Africa, Palmae: 23 (1986); Palm. Afr. 25 (1995). – Icon.: Palm. Afr. 156 (1995); palmweb.org.
Synonym: H. migiurtina Chiov.
This is an imperfectly studied taxon almost only known from the original description by Odoardo Beccari, who proposed Yemen as original locality (cf. Beccari, 1908). It is apparently different from all other Hyphaene in its creeping habit, the several arms of the dichotomies radiating outwards from a central point, the stem flattened, tending to lie on the surface of the ground. Additional material is critical for a better understanding of this taxon.
This palm grows in extreme arid, desert conditions and associated with perched water tables. A spectacular picture of this palm growing in Carin (Somalia) is proposed by the palmweb.org project and can be seen by clicking here.
The only convincing populations of Hyphaene reptans are in the Horn of Africa and Yemen (J. Dransfield pers. comm.). Based on populations photographed in Kalacha Wells (northern Kenya) the species was included in the palm treatment of Flora of Tropical East Africa (Dransfield, 1986); however, new collections of these populations stored at K may suggest that these populations better correspond to Hyphaene coriacea (J. Dransfield pers. comm.), which may sometimes present a prostrate growth form.
No information has been reported on the economic importance of this species and in general it remains a poorly known palm that requires further study.
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/95317653/0
Fig. 1. Distribution of Hyphaene reptans (based on Stauffer et al., 2014).
As indicated above in the text populations of Kenya require further taxonomic evaluation