What do we know about the Doum palms (Hyphaene spp.)?

Composition and distribution

The genus Hyphaene (apparently 8 spp.) is distributed in dry regions of continental Africa, Madagascar, the Red Sea region, and the coasts of the Gulf of Eilat, Arabia and western India (Dransfield et al. 2008, Stauffer et al., 2014)

Fossil record

An unequivocal fossil of Hyphaene (H. kapelmanii A. D. Pan, B. F. Jacobs, J. Dransf. & W. J. Baker) was described by Pan et al. (2006) from a tuffaceous ironstone deposit of Late Oligocene age (28-27 Mya) in north-western Ethiopia. A petrified palm petiole (Palmocaulon hyphaenoides) showing similarities with the currently recognized H. dichotoma was described by Shete & Kulkarni (1980) from the Indian Deccan Intertrappean of Maharashtra State. Endocarps supposed to be from the earliest Cretaceous (Aptian) of Egypt are compared to Hyphaene by Vaudois-Miéja and Lejal-Nicol (1987), although one endocarp looked notably Hyphaene-like. Nevertheless, an Aptian age for the formation in which these fossils (Hyphaeneocarpon aegyptiacum) were found is questionable and may be much younger (Schrank, 1992; Dransfield et al., 2008).


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