18. Elaeis Jacquin, Selectarum Stirpium Americanarum Historia ... 280. 1763.
Oil palm [Greek elaia, olive, in reference to the oily fruits]
Alfonsia Kunth; Corozo Jacquin ex Giseke
Stems solitary, erect, robust, covered with persistent leaf bases or bare, unarmed. Leaves: crownshaft absent; petiole margins armed with lignified, indurate bases of midveins persisting as spines after blade erodes; blade pinnate, unarmed; plication reduplicate; segments regularly arranged in multiple planes [in 1 plane], apices acute to 2-cleft. Inflorescences within crown of leaves, densely paniculate, with 1 order of branching, either staminate or pistillate, partially obscured by leaf bases; peduncle short; prophyll short; peduncular bract woody, splitting abaxially; rachillae thick, apices stiff, sharp. Flowers unisexual, sessile, borne singly along rachillae. Staminate flowers in pits in rachillae; sepals 3, free; petals 3, free, valvate, leathery; stamens 6, filaments briefly connate; anthers rectangular; pistillode with 3 minute lobes. Pistillate flowers: sepals 3, imbricate, free; petals 3, imbricate, free; staminodial ring bearing 6 short points; pistil s1; ovules 3; styles indistinct; stigmas 3. Fruits drupes, ovoid; exocarp orange-yellow and black, thin; mesocarp fleshy, oily; endocarp thick, bony, with 3 apical germination pores. Seeds spheroid; endosperm homogeneous; embryo subapical; eophyll undivided, lanceolate.
Species 2 (1 in the flora): tropics; Central America, South America, Africa.
Elaeis guineensis, the African oil palm, is widespread in wet tropical Africa. It is now cultivated throughout the tropics, where it is the most important perennial oil crop, the source of both palm oil and palm kernel oil.