Hyphaene petersiana Klotzsch ex Mart., Hist. Nat. Palm. 3(ed. 2): 227 (1845); Fl. Trop. E. Africa, Palmae: 24 (1986); Palm. Afr. 29 (1995); Checklist Zimbabwean vasc. pl. 33: 85 (2004); Tree Atlas Namib. 38 (2005); Checklist Zambian vasc. pl. 32: 106 (2005); Strelitzia 22: 172 (2008); Fl. Zambes. 13(2): 53 (2010). – Icon.: Fl. Trop. E. Africa, Palmae: 25, 154-156 (1986); Tree Atlas Namib. 39 (2005); Fl. Zambes. 13(2): 54 (2010).
Synonyms: Chamaeriphes benguelensis (Welw. ex H. Wendl.) Kuntze; C. ventricosa (J. Kirk) Kuntze; H. aurantiaca Dammer; H. benguelensis Welw. ex H. Wendl.; H. benguelensis var. ventricosa (J. Kirk) Furtado; H. bussei Dammer; H. goetzei Dammer; H. obovata Furtado; H. ovata Furtado; H. plagiocarpa Dammer; H. ventricosa J. Kirk; H. ventricosa subsp. ambolandensis Becc.; H. ventricosa subsp. anisopleura Becc.; H. ventricosa subsp. aurantiaca (Dammer) Becc.; H. ventricosa subsp. benguelensis (Welw. ex H. Wendl.) Becc.; H. ventricosa subsp. bussei (Dammer) Becc.; H. ventricosa subsp. goetzei (Dammer) Becc.; H. ventricosa subsp. petersiana (Klotzsch ex Mart.) Becc.; H. ventricosa subsp. plagiocarpa (Dammer) Becc.; H. ventricosa subsp. russisiensis Becc.; H. ventricosa subsp. useguhensis Becc.
Stem to 20 m tall and to 35 cm in diameter, solitary (Fig. 1) or very rarely clustered; leaves 20-25; fruits more oblong (Fig. 2), or less rounded, obovoid or ovoid, never regularly compressed, 5-8 cm long and 5-6 cm wide, rich red-brown to chestnut
Hyphaene petersiana grows in the savannah or in secondary vegetation; it grows on sodic-saline alluvial soils with high water tables. In East Africa it grows in inland regions, usually confined to alkaline soils with relatively high water-tables; it is distributed from see level to 1300 m.
This species is sometimes confused with Borassus aethiopum, the two taxa being easily distinguished by the well-defined petiole-spines in Hyphaene petersiana vs. erose spines in Borassus, and the elongate pointed segments in Hyphaene vs. the stiffer, broader, more rounded segments in Borassus (Dransfield, 2010).This species is distributed in Tanzania, occurring from Lakes Manyara and Eyasi southwards; common throughout the Zambesi region, reaching N. Transvaal, through the Democratic Republic of Congo to the West coast of Africa in Angola and Namibia.The leaves of this palm are intensively collected for basket weaving and as documented by Dijkman (1999) this may represent a threat for wild populations in southern Zimbabwe.
Fig. 1. Stand of Hyphaene petersiana in the village of Mikoche, on the shores of the Lake Eyasi (Tanzania, Arusha Region). This palm has a solitary growth habit and the stems reach up to 12 m. The “ventricose” stems were only observed in some individuals, most often males.
Fig. 2. Infructescence of Hyphaene petersiana bearing the regularly oblong, shiny fruits, typical of the species (Tanzania: village of Mikoche, on the shores of the Lake Eyasi, Arusha Region).
Fig. 3. Distribution of Hyphaene petersiana (based on Stauffer et al., 2014)