The largest dissected leaves are of raffia palms. And the record holder among the whole genus is royal raffia, the length of the leaves of which reaches 25 m.
The generic name for raffia comes from the Greek word for needle or sting - raphis. Close to the record holder for the largest and longest leaves and raffia Madagascar, which lives in tropical Africa and especially on the island of Madagascar. In royal raffia, the leaf, if measured from the petiole itself, often reaches 25 meters, the Madagascar record is 22 m.Raffia was brought to all other countries from Africa, and in many places it has taken root well, especially the climate of Central and South America.
Raffia grows along rivers, near swamps. The palm tree itself is low, only 30-40 m, in Peru and Ecuador its growth can reach 50 m. The leaves extend from the trunk strictly vertically, and there are several long and sharp needles near the base of each leaf. Raffia reaches its full development only by the age of 30-40, and blooms only once in a lifetime. If the inflorescence is not cut, it reaches a size of 4-5 meters, branching into many pedicels. After the raffia has bloomed, and the fruit has formed and died off, the stem of the flower withers, dries up and dies. The palm tree itself continues to exist.
Raffia fruits are similar to a brown chicken egg - both in shape and size. The brownish-red rind is very hard and smooth.
Raffia - sizes and applications
Raffia leaves resemble huge sultans, they are up to 12 meters wide, and the length of only a thick and strong petiole can be up to 5 m. Such a leaf can shelter several dozen people in its shade.
A characteristic feature of the palm leaf is the presence of a midrib turning into a petiole. The leaf is clearly divided into a petiole and a plate, and at the point of attachment of the leaf to the stem, it expands into the sheath, which covers the entire stem. The fiber of these particular leaves is an excellent planting material for gardening, and in addition, a wide variety of products are made from the leaves of palm trees. Most often, this fiber, which is called raffia, is used in floriculture, but often clothes and household items are woven from it. Raffia sheets are used in building construction and home furnishings. The leaves of raffia are covered with a wax coating, it is carefully collected and used in the manufacture of candles, shoe creams and simply polished with this wax wood and leather. And from the fruits of raffia oil is obtained.
Inflorescences of raffia at the early development stage are cut off, and the juice is collected, which contains a large amount of sugar - from which palm vodka is made. A starch-rich flour can be obtained from the stem if it is well dried and ground to a powder.