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)