Kosi Raphia Palm

Raphia australis

The Kosi Raphia Palm is an enormous tree, growing up to 25m tall with leaves up to 18m long – among the largest leaves of any plant on earth. They grow in swamp forests, often forming dense stands. Around the age of 20-30 years the Kosi Palm flowers only once , producing an immense 3m high brown inflorescence at the top of the plant and then, after bearing thousands of fruit that takes two years to mature, dies. The Raphia Palm family is a main food source for the Palmnut Vulture. Humans use the leaves as thatching material and the petioles to construct huts and fences.

The Kosi Raphia Palm has an extremely limited distribution, occurring only in a few locations in southern Mozambique and around Kosi Bay in the extreme north-eastern corner of Kwazulu-Natal Province in South Africa. The total population of mature individuals number probably around 7,000 only, with the IUCN listing the species as vulnerable, and noting a continuous decline in their numbers due to habitat loss. In 1916 a grove of Kosi Palms were established in the town of Mtunzini, some distance south of their natural range, by the local magistrate. After becoming established and multiplying, Mtunzini’s Raphia Palm Forest was declared a National Monument in 1942. (You may want to click on the image below for an easier read)

Mtunzini’s Raphia Palm Monument

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20 thoughts on “Kosi Raphia Palm

    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      Die palm-plantasie, en die witaasvoels, is n groot aanwins vir Mtunzini uit n toerisme oogpunt – dit help die plaaslike mense besef hoe ons elke dag se brood-en-botter van n gesonde omgewing afhang!

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    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      That’s so interesting, Tim – I never even thought that palm throngs could be transformed into paper! I’d dare say though that these Kosi Palms would make much better thatching material than paper – these leaves are enormous and thick!

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    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      Thankfully the South African portion of the population is well protected in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, Tracy, but sadly the same can not be said about the plants on the other side of the border with Mozambique.

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        1. de Wets Wild Post author

          I wish, Tracy! Sengis, or elephant shrews as we know them, are very difficult to see – I can probably count the times I’ve seen one on the fingers of one hand – and I’ve yet to get even one picture of any of the various kinds.

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