genus of plants

Elaeis (from Greek 'oil') is a genus of palms with two species, called oil palms. They are used in commercial agriculture in the production of palm oil. The African oil palm Elaeis guineensis (the species name guineensis refers to its country of origin) is the main source of palm oil. It is native to west and southwest Africa. It can be found between Angola and Gambia. The American oil palm Elaeis oleifera (from Latin oleifer 'oil-producing')[2] is native to tropical Central and South America,[3] and is used locally for oil production.

African oil palm (Elaeis guineensis)
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Monocots
Clade: Commelinids
Order: Arecales
Family: Arecaceae
Subfamily: Arecoideae
Tribe: Cocoseae
Genus: Elaeis

Description change

Mature palms are single-stemmed, and can grow well over 20 m (66 ft) tall. The leaves are pinnate, and reach between 3–5 m (10–16 ft) long. The flowers are produced in dense clusters; each individual flower is small, with three sepals and three petals.

Harvesting oil palm fruit in Liberia

The palm fruit is reddish, about the size of a large plum, and grows in large bunches. Each fruit is made up of an oily, fleshy outer layer (the pericarp), with a single seed (the palm kernel), also rich in oil.

Species change

The two species, E. guineensis and E. oleifera can produce fertile hybrids. The genome of E. guineensis has been sequenced, which has important implications for breeding improved strains of the crop plants.[4]

Image Name Common name Distribution
Elaeis guineensis Jacq. African oil palm or macaw-fat west and southwest Africa, specifically the area between Angola and The Gambia
Elaeis oleifera (Kunth) Cortés American oil palm South and Central America from Honduras to northern Brazil

Human use change

These palms are grown commercially, mainly for three reasons:

In coastal West Africa, the use of these palms may date back about 5.000 years. Palm oil was discovered in a tomb at Abydos, dating back to 3.000 BCE.[6]

Especially the African oil palm is widely cultivated in tropical countries outside Africa. Today, most of the commercially produced palm oil comes from Malaysia and Indonesia.

Controversy change

Palm oil is controversial. This controversy is not based on palm oil itself, but on the conditions how it is produced. Very often, rainforest, with a high biodiversity is destroyed to make room for palm oil plantations. The companies producing the palm oil also often force people to move away and change their way of life. Especially in Indonesia, there is growing pressure for palm oil producers to prove that they are not harming rare animals in the cultivation process.[7]

In 2018 a Christmas TV advertisement by UK supermarket chain Iceland Foods Ltd, produced by Greenpeace, was banned by the UK advertising watchdog Clearcast, as it was deemed too political. Iceland Foods had committed to banning palm oil from its own-brand products by the end of 2018.

References change

  1. "World Checklist of Selected Plant Families: Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew". wcsp.science.kew.org.
  2. Gledhill, David (2008). The Name of Plants (4 ed.). Cambridge: University Press. p. 279.
  3. Collins Guide to Tropical Plants, ISBN 0-00-219112-1
  4. Singh, R.; Ong-Abdullah, M.; Low, E.-T.L.; Manaf, M.A.A.; Rosli, R.; Nookiah, R.; Ooi, L.C.-L.; Ooi, S.-E.; Chan, K.-L. (2013). "Oil palm genome sequence reveals divergence of interfertile species in Old and New worlds". Nature. 500 (7462): 335–339. Bibcode:2013Natur.500..335S. doi:10.1038/nature12309. PMC 3929164. PMID 23883927.
  5. De Marco, Elena; Savarese, Maria; Parisini, Cristina; Battimo, Ilaria; Falco, Salvatore; Sacchi, Raffaele (2007). "Frying performance of a sunflower/palm oil blend in comparison with pure palm oil". European Journal of Lipid Science and Technology. 109 (3): 237–246. doi:10.1002/ejlt.200600192.
  6. Kiple, Kenneth F.; Conee Ornelas, Kriemhild, eds. (2000). The Cambridge World History of Food. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521402166. Archived from the original on 20 October 2012. Retrieved 30 August 2012.
  7. "Palm Oil Plantations Are Blamed For Many Evils. But Change Is Coming". NPR.org. Retrieved 2017-07-19.

Other websites change

  •   Media related to Elaeis at Wikimedia Commons