Prota 2: Vegetables/Légumes
Ann. Inst. Bot.-Géol. Colon. Marseille sér. 3, 1(1): 61 (1913).
Borassus flabellifer L. var. madagascariensis Jum. & H.Perrier (1907).
Madagascar Palmyra palm (En). Rônier de Madagascar (Fr).
Origin and geographic distribution
Borassus madagascariensis is endemic to Madagascar.
The palm heart is eaten. The newly germinated seedlings are eaten fresh, or cooked into a sort of gruel that is much relished. The stem pith gives a slightly bitter sago-like substance that is also consumed. The hollowed-out stems were formerly used as containers. An alcoholic drink is produced from the fruit. There are no reports of the production of palm wine from Borassus madagascariensis, in contrast with the Borassus species of the African mainland, which are well-known sources of this. Borassus madagascariensis is occasionally grown as an ornamental.
The seeds contain an oil that is rich in unsaturated fatty acids. No other data are available on the chemical composition of Borassus madagascariensis. However, young shoots of the related species Borassus flabellifer L. from mainland Africa, which is mainly used for the production of palm wine, contain per 100 g edible portion: water 69.5 g, energy 431 kJ (103 kcal), protein 2.7 g, fat 0.2 g, carbohydrate 24.4 g, fibre 2.2 g, Ca 18 mg, P 140 mg, thiamin 0.05 mg, riboflavin 0.18 mg, niacin 0.9 mg, ascorbic acid 8 mg (Leung, W.-T.W., Busson, F. & Jardin, C., 1968).
Palm with solitary trunk 10–16 m tall, 40–60 cm in diameter, with a swelling of up to 75 cm at or above the middle. Leaves 12–20 in crown, arranged spirally, up to 5 m long, palmately compound; petiole 2–3 m long; segments 60–95, 1.2–2 m × 4–9 cm, undulating. Inflorescence unisexual; male inflorescence c. 1.5 m long, branched to 1–2 orders, with 4–14 partial inflorescences, peduncle 20–60 cm long, bracts 2–4, up to 40 cm long; female inflorescence unbranched, c. 1.2 m long, peduncle c. 35 cm long, bracts 9–10, up to 50 cm long. Flowers unisexual, 3-merous; male flowers with 6 stamens; female flowers with superior, 3-celled rounded ovary. Fruit a subglobose drupe 15–18 cm in diameter; pyrenes 3, shaped as one-third of a globe, c. 12 cm × 8–12 cm × 5–7 cm. Seeds 6.5–8.5 cm × 7–7.5 cm × 5–5.5 cm.
Borassus sambiranensis Jum. & H.Perrier, also from Madagascar and possibly conspecific with Borassus aethiopum Mart., has similar uses as Borassus madagascariensis.
Borassus madagascariensis occurs along rivers on alluvial soils at low altitudes.
Borassus madagascariensis is reproduced through seeds. These are to a limited extent traded on the international market. There are about 3 seeds in one kg.
Genetic resources and breeding
The conservation status of Borassus madagascariensis is rated as ‘vulnerable’ on the IUCN red list of threatened plants. Although known from several sites, the original habitat over the entire distribution area has been almost totally destroyed. There are no known germplasm collections.
In addition to about 15 individuals in the Sambirano area in Madagascar, just a few trees of Borassus sambiranensis are known from Mayotte.
Borassus madagascariensis is an attractive palm, but with no special qualities compared to the more common Borassus aethiopum. The uses are only of local importance. Borassus sambiranensis often has a characteristic bulge in the middle of the trunk, also observed in East African Borassus aethiopum, which renders it more interesting as an ornamental. The collection of seeds from the wild for the purpose of international trade must be discouraged.
• Burkill, H.M., 1997. The useful plants of West Tropical Africa. 2nd Edition. Volume 4, Families M–R. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, United Kingdom. 969 pp.
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• Jumelle, H., 1945. Palmiers (Palmae). Flore de Madagascar et des Comores (plantes vasculaires), famille 30. Imprimerie Officielle, Tananarive, Madagascar. 180 pp.
• Leung, W.-T.W., Busson, F. & Jardin, C., 1968. Food composition table for use in Africa. FAO, Rome, Italy. 306 pp.
• Rabarisoa, I., Bianchini, J.P. & Gaydou, E.M., 1988. Étude comparative des lipides de Palmiers spontanés de Madagascar. Bulletin de l’Académie Malgache 66(1–2): 143–155.
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• Haynes, J. & McLaughlin, J., 2000. Edible palms and their uses. Fact Sheet MDCE-00-50, UF/Miami-Dade County Extension office, Homestead, United States. 13 pp.
• IUCN, 2002. 2002 IUCN red list of threatened species. [Internet] http://www.redlist.org. Accessed May 2003.
• Johnson, D.V. (Editor), 1996. Palms: their conservation and sustained utilization, status survey and conservation action plan. IUCN /SSC Palm Specialist Group, Gland, Switzerland. 116 pp.
• Walter, K.S. & Gillett, H.J. (Editors), 1998. 1997 IUCN red list of threatened plants. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland. 862 pp.
Correct citation of this article:
van der Burg, W.J., 2004. Borassus madagascariensis Bojer ex Jum. & H.Perrier In: Grubben, G.J.H. & Denton, O.A. (Editors). PROTA 2: Vegetables/Légumes. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.