Pondo Palm

Scientific Name
Jubaeopsis caffra Becc.
Higher Classification
Common Names
Dwarf Palm (e), Ikomba (x), Inkomba (x), Mkambati Palm (e), Palmboom (a), Pondo Coconut (e), Pondo Palm (e), Pondo-kokospalm (a), Pondoland Coconut (e), Pondo-palm (a), Rivierpalmboom (a)
National Status
Status and Criteria
Endangered D
Assessment Date
P.J.H. Hurter, L. von Staden, J.E. Victor & A.E. van Wyk
Known from two small subpopulations, each consisting of fewer than 50 mature individuals. One subpopulation, which occurs outside of a reserve, is potentially threatened by heavy exploitation of the fruits as a food source and harvesting for the horticultural trade. However, there is no evidence of a continuing decline in the number of mature individuals. The population appears to be maintained by vegetative reproduction.
South African endemic
Provincial distribution
Eastern Cape
Mtentu and Msikaba Rivers.
Habitat and Ecology
Major system
Major habitats
Scarp Forest
Pondoland coastal forest, steep sandstone cliffs above river banks, 10-80 m.
The subpopulation on the Mtentu River occurs outside of the boundaries of the Mkambati Nature Reserve. The fruits, which are very similar to coconut (Abbott 2006) are heavily exploited by the local population as a food source (Williams 1991, Custodians of Rare and Endangered Wildplants data). Individuals on the upper margins of the cliffs are also subjected to occasional fire damage (Williams 1991). However, the subpopulation appears to be maintained by vegetative reproduction (Williams 1991) and comparative population data from 1969 (Strey 8862) and 2007 (Custodians of Rare and Endangered Wildplants data) indicate no decline in the number of mature individuals. Jubaeopsis caffra is also very popular in the horticultural trade, and has been introduced internationally (Williams 1991). Harvesting of fruits from the wild populations for the horticultural trade is placing additional pressure on seed reserves (P.J.H. Hurter pers. Comm.). Seeds are reported to be difficult to acquire (Williams 1991). International trade in seeds of this species is not currently regulated by CITES - this species is not listed on either of the appendices. The subpopulation on the Msikaba River is protected within the Mkambati Nature Reserve and is not subjected to the same pressures as the Mtentu subpopulation (Williams 1991).

The largest subpopulation of about 20-50 mature individuals occur on the Mtentu River. A smaller subpopulation occurs on the banks of the Msikaba River.

Population trend
The subpopulation on the Msikaba River is protected within the Mkambati Nature Reserve. This species was formerly protected under the Transkei Nature Conservation Act Number 6 Schedule 10. It is currently protected by the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act (NEMBA), where it is listed as an Endangered Species. Under this act trade and harvesting of listed endangered species is to be controlled by a permit system.
Jubaeopsis caffra is one of the most highly range restricted of the Pondoland endemics. Jubaeopsis is a distinctive monotypic genus and is probably another ancient relic of the West Gondwana flora, along with other Pondoland endemics such as Rhynchocalyx lawsonioides, Colubrina nicholsonii and Dahlgrenodendron natalense. This species' closest relative appears to be Jubaea chilensis, another monotypic palm genus from Chile. The genus name Jubaeopsis means 'resembling Jubaea' (Williams 1991, Scott-Shaw 1999).
Assessment History
Taxon assessed
Status and Criteria
Citation/Red List version
Jubaeopsis caffra Becc.EN DRaimondo et al. (2009)
Jubaeopsis caffra Becc.VU Scott-Shaw (1999)
Jubaeopsis caffra Becc.Vulnerable Hilton-Taylor (1996)
Jubaeopsis caffra Becc.Rare Hall et al. (1980)

Abbott, T. 2006. The story of the Pondoland Centre. PlantLife 33&34:5-72.

Boon, R. 2010. Pooley's Trees of eastern South Africa. Flora and Fauna Publications Trust, Durban.

Hall, A.V., De Winter, M., De Winter, B. and Van Oosterhout, S.A.M. 1980. Threatened plants of southern Africa. South African National Scienctific Programmes Report 45. CSIR, Pretoria.

Hilton-Taylor, C. 1996. Red data list of southern African plants. Strelitzia 4. South African National Botanical Institute, Pretoria.

Raimondo, D., von Staden, L., Foden, W., Victor, J.E., Helme, N.A., Turner, R.C., Kamundi, D.A. and Manyama, P.A. 2009. Red List of South African Plants. Strelitzia 25. South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria.

Scott-Shaw, C.R. 1999. Rare and threatened plants of KwaZulu-Natal and neighbouring regions. KwaZulu-Natal Nature Conservation Service, Pietermaritzburg.

Williams, R. 1991. Jubaeopsis caffra. Flowering Plants of Africa 51:t. 2023.

Hurter, P.J.H., von Staden, L., Victor, J.E. & van Wyk, A.E. 2007. Jubaeopsis caffra Becc. National Assessment: Red List of South African Plants version 2017.1. Accessed on 2019/07/23

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Distribution map

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