Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


Elaeis guineensis
(African oil palm)



Elaeis guineensis (African oil palm)


  • Last modified
  • 22 November 2019
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Host Plant
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Elaeis guineensis
  • Preferred Common Name
  • African oil palm
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Monocotyledonae
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • E. guineensis, the African oil palm, is a major source of oil for human food uses, and also for secondary industrial uses. It is an important part of local nutrition and customs, and a significant product of global commercial importance....

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Elaeis guineensis (African oil palm); hills densly overgrown with oil palms. District Kunak, Sabah. April 2015.
CaptionElaeis guineensis (African oil palm); hills densly overgrown with oil palms. District Kunak, Sabah. April 2015.
Copyright©CEphoto, Uwe Aranas/via wikipedia - CC BY-SA 3.0
Elaeis guineensis (African oil palm); hills densly overgrown with oil palms. District Kunak, Sabah. April 2015.
PlantationElaeis guineensis (African oil palm); hills densly overgrown with oil palms. District Kunak, Sabah. April 2015.©CEphoto, Uwe Aranas/via wikipedia - CC BY-SA 3.0
Elaeis guineensis (African oil palm); plantation. Sabah, Borneo. August 2006.
CaptionElaeis guineensis (African oil palm); plantation. Sabah, Borneo. August 2006.
Copyright©Dr Lian Pin Koh/via flickr - CC BY 2.0
Elaeis guineensis (African oil palm); plantation. Sabah, Borneo. August 2006.
PlantationElaeis guineensis (African oil palm); plantation. Sabah, Borneo. August 2006.©Dr Lian Pin Koh/via flickr - CC BY 2.0
Elaeis guineensis (African oil palm); oil palm plantations. Central Kalimantan, Borneo. Febuary 2012.
CaptionElaeis guineensis (African oil palm); oil palm plantations. Central Kalimantan, Borneo. Febuary 2012.
Copyright©Glenn Hurowitz (glennhurowitz)/via flickr - CC BY-ND 2.0
Elaeis guineensis (African oil palm); oil palm plantations. Central Kalimantan, Borneo. Febuary 2012.
PlantationsElaeis guineensis (African oil palm); oil palm plantations. Central Kalimantan, Borneo. Febuary 2012.©Glenn Hurowitz (glennhurowitz)/via flickr - CC BY-ND 2.0
Elaeis guineensis (African oil palm); oil palm nursery. Borneo. April 2007.
CaptionElaeis guineensis (African oil palm); oil palm nursery. Borneo. April 2007.
Copyright©Dr Lian Pin Koh/via flickr - CC BY 2.0
Elaeis guineensis (African oil palm); oil palm nursery. Borneo. April 2007.
NurseryElaeis guineensis (African oil palm); oil palm nursery. Borneo. April 2007.©Dr Lian Pin Koh/via flickr - CC BY 2.0
Elaeis guineensis (African oil palm); fruits. Thailand. May 2014.
CaptionElaeis guineensis (African oil palm); fruits. Thailand. May 2014.
Copyright©Tatters (Tatiana Gerus)/via flickr - CC BY-SA 2.0
Elaeis guineensis (African oil palm); fruits. Thailand. May 2014.
FruitsElaeis guineensis (African oil palm); fruits. Thailand. May 2014.©Tatters (Tatiana Gerus)/via flickr - CC BY-SA 2.0
Elaeis guineensis (African oil palm); fruits, produced by a young palm at the botanical garden of Portoviejo, Ecuador. March 2010.
CaptionElaeis guineensis (African oil palm); fruits, produced by a young palm at the botanical garden of Portoviejo, Ecuador. March 2010.
Copyright©Cayambe (Dr Claude Meisch)/via wikipedia - CC BY-SA 3.0
Elaeis guineensis (African oil palm); fruits, produced by a young palm at the botanical garden of Portoviejo, Ecuador. March 2010.
FruitsElaeis guineensis (African oil palm); fruits, produced by a young palm at the botanical garden of Portoviejo, Ecuador. March 2010.©Cayambe (Dr Claude Meisch)/via wikipedia - CC BY-SA 3.0
Elaeis guineensis (African oil palm); harvested fruits. Palembang, Indonesia. March 2015.
CaptionElaeis guineensis (African oil palm); harvested fruits. Palembang, Indonesia. March 2015.
Copyright©Aul Rah/via flickr - CC BY 2.0
Elaeis guineensis (African oil palm); harvested fruits. Palembang, Indonesia. March 2015.
FruitsElaeis guineensis (African oil palm); harvested fruits. Palembang, Indonesia. March 2015.©Aul Rah/via flickr - CC BY 2.0


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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Elaeis guineensis Jacq.

Preferred Common Name

  • African oil palm

Other Scientific Names

  • Elaeis melanococca Gaertn.

International Common Names

  • English: oil palm
  • Spanish: palma africana; palma de aceite
  • French: palmier a huile; palmier à huile; palmier a huile d'Afrique; palmier a l'huile

Local Common Names

  • Brazil: palmeira-caiaué
  • Cambodia: dôong preeng
  • Cook Islands: nu tamara
  • Germany: Oelpalme
  • Indonesia: kelapa sawit; salak minyak
  • Italy: palma da olio
  • Malaysia: kelapa bali; kelapa sawit
  • Micronesia, Federated states of: apwiraiasi
  • Myanmar: si-htan; siohn; si-ohn
  • Netherlands: oliepalm
  • Sweden: oljepalm
  • Thailand: pam namman
  • Vietnam: co dâù; dùa dâù

EPPO code

  • EAIGU (Elaeis guineensis)

Trade name

  • African oil palm
  • oil palm
  • red palm oil

Summary of Invasiveness

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E. guineensis, the African oil palm, is a major source of oil for human food uses, and also for secondary industrial uses. It is an important part of local nutrition and customs, and a significant product of global commercial importance. It has been widely introduced pan-tropically, and has recently seen a surge in plantation establishment due to the increased interest in biofuels. There are, however, some reports of it escaping cultivation and naturalizing, and it has been noted as invasive in a few islands in Micronesia, with unconfirmed reports of invasiveness in Bahia, Brazil, possibly threatening remnant native coastal Atlantic forest. However, there are no firm records of it having significant negative environmental effects directly, other than those caused by deforestation in order to clear land for new plantations. Thus, while not a major invasive species, it may be prudent to survey any spread near to sensitive ecological sites.

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Plantae
  •         Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •             Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •                 Class: Monocotyledonae
  •                     Order: Arecales
  •                         Family: Arecaceae
  •                             Genus: Elaeis
  •                                 Species: Elaeis guineensis

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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The genus Elaeis consists of two species, the common oil palm E. guineensis native to Africa, and E. oleifera (Kunth) Cortes indigenous to South and Central America. A third species is sometimes considered, E. odora (or Barcella odora), though its taxonomy has not been confirmed. E. guineensis is the major economic species, as fruits of E. oleifera have a much lower oil content and are used only locally in their natural area of distribution.


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E. guineensis is a monoecious, erect, one-stemmed palm tree, usually 20–30 m high, with an adventitious root system that forms a dense mat in the upper 35 cm of the soil with only a few roots penetrating deeper than 1 m. The stem is cylindrical, up to 75 cm in diameter and covered with petiole bases in young palms, smooth in older trees (>10–12 years old). Juvenile leaves are lanceolate and entire but gradually becoming pinnate; mature leaves spirally arranged, paripinnate, up to 7.5 m long; petiole 1–2 m long, spinescent, clasping the stem at base; leaflets linear, 35–65 x 2-4 cm, up to 376 per leaf. Inflorescences are unisexual, axillary, pedunculate, until anthesis enclosed in two fusiform or ovate spathes 10–30 cm long, with flowers 3-merous; male ones with numerous cylindrical spikes forming an ovoid body 15–25 cm long and bearing flowers with 6 stamens, connate at base, with linear anthers; female ones subglobose, 15–35 cm diameter, with numerous lanceolate, spiny bracts, each subtending a cylindrical spikelet with 10–20 spirally arranged female flowers, each with two rudimentary male flowers; stigma sessile, 3-lobed. Fruits are ovoid-oblong drupes, 2–5 cm long, tightly packed in large ovoid bunches with 1000–3000 fruits; drupes with a thin exocarp, an oleiferous mesocarp and a lignified endocarp containing the kernel with embryo and solid endosperm.

Plant Type

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Seed propagated


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The exact limits to the native range are disputed, as are those of many plants that have been so widely used by man for many centuries. E. guineensis is sometimes stated to occur throughout the tropical rainforest belt of West Africa between 10°N and 10°S; however, Duke (1983) notes that it is native to a 200–300 km coastal belt from approximately 15°N to 15°S, from Senegal to Angola, and eastwards to Tanzania and Madagascar, supported by the larger native range noted by USDA-ARS (2008).

In addition to a detailed description of this species, Corley and Tinker (2003) provide notes on the most important oil-palm-producing countries: Indonesia, Malaysia and other Asian countries; Nigeria, Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Ivory Coast, other West African countries; Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador and other South and Central American countries.

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Last updated: 21 Jul 2022
Continent/Country/Region Distribution Last Reported Origin First Reported Invasive Planted Reference Notes


BurundiPresentOil palm fruit production (2008) 13,000 MT (F)
CameroonPresentOil palm fruit production (2008) 1,400,000 MT (F)
Central African RepublicPresentOil palm fruit production (2008) 32,000 MT (F)
Congo, Democratic Republic of thePresentNativePlanted
Congo, Republic of thePresentOil palm fruit production (2008) 90,000 MT (F)
Côte d'IvoirePresentOil palm fruit production (2008) 1,200,000 MT (F)
Equatorial GuineaPresentOil palm fruit production (2008) 35,000 MT (F)
GabonPresentOil palm fruit production (2008) 33,500 MT (F)
GambiaPresentOil palm fruit production (2008) 35,000 MT (F)
GhanaPresentOil palm fruit production (2008) 1,900,000 MT (F)
GuineaPresentOil palm fruit production (2008) 830,000 MT (F)
Guinea-BissauPresentOil palm fruit production (2008) 80,000 MT (F)
LiberiaPresentOil palm fruit production (2008) 183,000 MT (F)
MadagascarPresentOil palm fruit production (2008) 21,000 MT (F)
NigeriaPresentOil palm fruit production (2008) 8,500,000 MT (F)
São Tomé and PríncipePresentOil palm fruit production (2008) 15,000 MT (F)
SenegalPresentOil palm fruit production (2008) 71,000 MT (F)
Sierra LeonePresentOil palm fruit production (2008) 195,000 MT (F)
TogoPresentOil palm fruit production (2008) 125,000 MT (F)


ChinaPresentOil palm fruit production (2008) 665,000 MT (F)
-Andaman and Nicobar IslandsPresentPlanted
-Andhra PradeshPresentPlanted
IndonesiaPresentOil palm fruit production (2008) 8,500,0000 MT (F)
-SumatraPresentPlantedFirst planted in 1911 using deli palms
MalaysiaPresentOil palm fruit production (2008) 8,300,0000 MT (F)
-Peninsular MalaysiaPresentPlanted
PhilippinesPresentOil palm fruit production (2008) 286,000 MT (F)
Sri LankaPresentPlanted
ThailandPresentOil palm fruit production (2008) 7,872,630 MT

North America

Costa RicaPresentOil palm fruit production (2008) 863,200 MT
Dominican RepublicPresentOil palm fruit production (2008) 188,800 MT (F)
GuatemalaPresentOil palm fruit production (2008) 1,233,300 MT (F)
HondurasPresentOil palm fruit production (2008) 1,112,118 MT (F)
MexicoPresentOil palm fruit production (2008) 292,499 MT (F)
NicaraguaPresentOil palm fruit production (2008) 60,000 MT (F)
PanamaPresentOil palm fruit production (2008) 75,000 MT (F)
United StatesPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-HawaiiPresentIntroducedBut presence questioned as no voucher specimen available


Christmas IslandPresentIntroduced
Cook IslandsPresentIntroduced
Federated States of MicronesiaPresentIntroducedInvasiveInvasive on Pohnpei only
French PolynesiaPresentIntroduced
Marshall IslandsPresentIntroduced
New CaledoniaPresentIntroduced
Papua New GuineaPresentOil palm fruit production (2008) 1,400,000 MT (F)
Solomon IslandsPresentOil palm fruit production (2008) 155,000 MT (F)

South America

BrazilPresentOil palm fruit production (2008) 660,000 MT (F)
-Distrito FederalPresent
ColombiaPresentOil palm fruit production (2008) 3,200,000 MT (F)
EcuadorPresentOil palm fruit production (2008) 2,100,000 MT (F)
-Galapagos IslandsPresentIntroduced
ParaguayPresentOil palm fruit production (2008) 142,500 MT (F)
PeruPresentOil palm fruit production (2008) 238,448 MT (F)
SurinamePresentOil palm fruit production (2008) 1,200 MT (F)

History of Introduction and Spread

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E. guineensis was introduced to South America with the slave trade. In fact, the original description of Jacquin in 1763 was based on a specimen growing in Martinique. In common with several plantation crops in South-East Asia (notably rubber, cocoa, coffee, tea, cinchona), the genetic origin of the commercial material is rather restricted and to some extent almost accidental. The oil palm industry in Indonesia and Malaysia started with material descended from four palms (thick-shelled dura) introduced in the 1800s to the botanical garden of Bogor, Indonesia. Their simultaneous introduction, probably from Mauritius or Réunion, suggests that the four seeds may well have derived from a single (open-pollinated) fruit bunch. Seeds of these palms and their descendants were widely distributed throughout Indonesia as ornamental palms. Avenue palms in Deli, northern Sumatra, supplied the seeds for the first oil-palm estates from 1911 onwards. In Malaysia, the first estate was established in 1917. By the early 1920s, a number of breeding and selection programmes had started which produced improved planting material generally referred to as Deli Dura. Until the 1950s, Deli Dura was used exclusively as planting material in both Indonesia and Malaysia. It is now probably grown in almost all tropical countries between 10°N and 10°S.

Semi-wild groves are reported in coastal regions of Brazil around Bélem, Bahia, though there are recent unconfirmed reports of it becoming invasive in this area and threatening remnant native Atlantic forest. It has also been widely introduced in the Pacific, and it has been recorded as invasive in the Pohnpei islands of the Federated States of Micronesia (PIER, 2008). It is certainly under reported in the distribution table, especially in Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, Central and South America, as it is likely to be present in almost every country with a humid tropical climate.

Risk of Introduction

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It is clearly highly likely that such a globally commercially important crop is likely to be grown in every country with a suitable climate, and risks of it becoming an invasive weed are highly unlikely to persuade exiting and potential growers to stop production. The recent rise in interest in biofuels has also lead to a significant increase in E. guineensis plantation establishment in the last few years, a trend which may be expected to continue.


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E. guineensis is a species of the lowland humid tropics. In its native range, Duke (1983) reports that E. guineensis occurs wild in riverine forests or in freshwater swamps, though may be occasionally found at its ecological extremes from savanna to rainforest, otherwise mostly in tropical dry to tropical wet forest vegetation types. It does not regenerate or grow well in dense natural forests as it is apparently not very competitive with other forest species, and therefore tends to be found where other forest species do not grow well. It is shade intolerant, but needs adequate soil moisture and can tolerate periodic waterlogging.

Habitat List

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Terrestrial ManagedManaged forests, plantations and orchards Principal habitat Productive/non-natural
Terrestrial ManagedDisturbed areas Present, no further details Natural
Terrestrial Natural / Semi-naturalNatural forests Present, no further details Natural
Terrestrial Natural / Semi-naturalRiverbanks Present, no further details Natural
Terrestrial Natural / Semi-naturalWetlands Present, no further details Natural
LittoralCoastal areas Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
LittoralCoastal areas Present, no further details Natural

Biology and Ecology

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E. guineensis is native to Africa and it is assumed that speciation took place in that continent. However, all related species classified in the subfamily Cocoideae have a South American origin, except perhaps the coconut, Cocos nucifera, thus the archetypal ancestor may have been indigenous to the Americas.

A particular feature of the E. guineensis with considerable economic consequences is the occurrence of (at least) three natural fruit types under monogenic control, which also form the basis for the classification of oil palms:

  • Dura: homozygous (sh+ sh+) for the presence of a relatively thick endocarp (shell 2–8 mm)
  • Tenera: heterozygous (sh+ sh-) with a relatively thin endocarp (0.5–4 mm)
  • Pisifera: homozygous (sh- sh-) for the absence of an endocarp.

There is also a Macrocarya form with the thickest endocarps 6–8 mm thick, being the most important type in West Africa and which forms a large proportion of the crop from Nigeria to Sierra Leone.

The original Bogor palms and material derived from them were the thick-shelled, Dura types and as a population is generally referred to as Deli Dura. Pisifera is usually female-sterile and although the cause of this sterility is still unknown, it may be due to reduced protection of the developing embryo through absence of lignified endocarp tissue. Tenera is preferred as planting material because it has more oil-bearing mesocarp (60-90% per fruit weight) than Dura (20–65% per fruit weight). Within each fruit type, however, there is considerable variation apparently under polygenic control.

Elucidation of single-gene inheritance of shell thickness caused interest in the Tenera fruit type (sh+ sh-) as commercial material obtained from a cross of Dura (sh+ sh+) with Pisifera (sh- sh-). Material segregating for the shell-thickness gene descended from a single Tenera palm (SP 540) in Sumatra was the major source of Pisifera for several breeding programmes. This palm probably has a common origin with material in the breeding programme at Yangambi, Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire), descended from nine Tenera palms. By the 1960s, major breeding programmes in Sumatra and Malaysia concentrated primarily on Deli Dura and 'Yangambi' Pisifera for the production of commercial planting material. Since then, extensive new introductions have been effected from various breeding programmes in West Africa (Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo). In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the Palm Oil Research Institute of Malaysia (PORIM) started a systematic programme of prospecting and collecting from oil groves in West Africa and from E. oleifera populations in South and Central America, significantly widening the basis for breeding programmes.

Reproductive Biology

Flowers are unisexual, with female flowers grouped in clusters of 200–300 close to the trunk at the end of short heavy pedicels, with male flowers borne in spikes. Fruits are produced 3–4 years after planting, and fruits ripen 5 or 6 months after pollination. The physiological basis of sex differentiation is not yet well understood, except that empirical evidence suggests that physiological stress conditions seem to encourage maleness. Pollination is primarily by insects. One insect pollinator, Elaeidobius kamerunicus, was successfully introduced into Malaysia and subsequently Indonesia in 1979. Before this time, oil palms in the region were wind pollinated, often requiring artificial pollination in the first few years. E. guineensis seeds are dormant after harvesting though the physiology of this dormancy is not well known. Seeds usually require temperatures of 35°C or more in order to germinate, though germination is speeded up by dry heat treatment (40°C) for 80 days followed by cooling at higher moisture contents.

Physiology and Phenology

The stem has a single growing point from which a leaf primordium develops about every second week. Succeeding primordia are separated by a divergence angle of 137.5° (Fibonacci angle), causing leaf bases to be arranged in various sets of spirals, of which a set of eight parastichies is normally obvious. Rate of leaf production is up to 40 per year in the first 2 years, dropping to a rate of 18–24 per year from year 8 onwards. From leaf primordium to fully expanded leaf (2–10 m²) takes about 2 years. The normal photosynthetically active life of a leaf is about 2 years, so under natural conditions up to 50 leaves are present per palm. In plantations, this number is usually kept at about 40. In the first 2 years, lateral growth of the trunk dominates, giving a broad base up to 60 cm in diameter. After that, the trunk starts growing in height, 35–75 cm per year, reducing its diameter up to 40 cm. The rate of height increment and rate of leaf production appear to be independent. All leaf bases contain inflorescence primordia, but the first fully developed inflorescence does not appear before leaf 20 and usually much later, some 3 years after germination. The length of male and female phases in individual palms is very variable and irregular, but a population of palms shows clear seasonal trends. The mean interval between sex differentiation and anthesis is around 20 months, and between anthesis of female flowers and fruit ripeness 4–5 months. Fruit ripening on the bunch proceeds simultaneously from top to bottom and from outer to inner fruits and ripe fruits become detached. In well managed plantations in Malaysia and Sumatra, on soils with a reasonable availability of nutrients and a good water-holding capacity under uniform and adequate rainfall, yields of bunches of 24–32 t/ha are common. Oil extraction rate from a bunch of E. guineensis fruit is 17–27% for palm oil and 4–10% for palm kernels, though figures for factory extraction rates of oil related to bunch weight are 20–22% which represents oil yields of 4.8–7 t/ha, higher than in any other oil crop.

Environmental Requirements

The natural environment of oil palms is the lowland humid tropics. Rainfall in its native range is 1780–2280 mm per annum with 2–4 month dry period, and although it has been recorded in areas where annual rainfall is as low as 640 mm or as high as 4200 mm (Duke, 1983), these limits should be treated as exceptional. Mean maximum temperature of 30–32°C and mean minimum of 21–24°C provide suitable range, and growth may cease below 15°C. It is generally a lowland species, and grows on a wide range of tropical soils if not too acid or alkaline (pH 4-8) if sufficiently moist (Duke, 1983). E. guineensis needs a good moisture supply and open areas as they cannot compete with faster-growing tree species. E. guineensis does not grow under continuous flooding but is tolerant of fluctuating water tables with periods of standing water. Hence, the natural habitats are considered to be swamps, riverbanks and other areas too wet for dicotyledonous trees of the tropical rain forest. Under cultivation, rainfall is often the main limiting factor on production. Major areas of oil-palm cultivation are in the equatorial belt where mean annual rainfall deficits do not exceed 600–650 mm annually. Highest yields are achieved where rainfall is well distributed throughout the year with an optimum of 150 mm monthly. Little is known about temperature effects other than that oil palms grow less well at higher altitudes (above 500–600 m) and at higher latitudes (above 10°). In regions where minimum temperatures regularly drop below 20°C for prolonged periods, productivity and growth are severely reduced. E. guineensis is also affected by high temperatures, with photochemical efficiency reduced above 35°C.

E. guineensis can grow on a wide variety of soils ranging from sandy soils to lateritic red and yellow podzols, young volcanic soils, alluvial clays and peat soils. A major criterion for relative suitability seems to be water-holding capacity. As E. guineensis is responsive to soil nutrients, nutrient-release characteristics are also important as they affect efficiency of fertilizer use in plantations.


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A - Tropical/Megathermal climate Preferred Average temp. of coolest month > 18°C, > 1500mm precipitation annually
Af - Tropical rainforest climate Preferred > 60mm precipitation per month
Am - Tropical monsoon climate Preferred Tropical monsoon climate ( < 60mm precipitation driest month but > (100 - [total annual precipitation(mm}/25]))
As - Tropical savanna climate with dry summer Preferred < 60mm precipitation driest month (in summer) and < (100 - [total annual precipitation{mm}/25])
Aw - Tropical wet and dry savanna climate Preferred < 60mm precipitation driest month (in winter) and < (100 - [total annual precipitation{mm}/25])

Latitude/Altitude Ranges

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Latitude North (°N)Latitude South (°S)Altitude Lower (m)Altitude Upper (m)
10 -10 0 350

Air Temperature

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Parameter Lower limit Upper limit
Absolute minimum temperature (ºC) 15
Mean annual temperature (ºC) 26 28
Mean maximum temperature of hottest month (ºC) 30 32
Mean minimum temperature of coldest month (ºC) 21 24


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ParameterLower limitUpper limitDescription
Dry season duration02number of consecutive months with <40 mm rainfall
Mean annual rainfall6404200mm; lower/upper limits

Rainfall Regime

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Soil Tolerances

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Soil drainage

  • free
  • seasonally waterlogged

Soil reaction

  • acid
  • alkaline
  • neutral

Soil texture

  • light
  • medium

Special soil tolerances

  • infertile

Natural enemies

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Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Achatina fulica
Adoretus compressus
Aeschynomene indica
Aleurotrachelus atratus
Alternaria tenuissima not specific
Amaranthus spinosus
Amathusia phidippus
Aonidiella orientalis
Apate monachus
Apogonia cribricollis
Araecerus fasciculatus
Aspergillus flavus not specific
Aspidiotus destructor
Atherigona orientalis
Axonopus compressus
Bachytrupes sp.
Bandicota indica
bird pests
Borreria latifolia
Botryodiplodia palmarum
Brassolis sophorae
Brevipalpus phoenicis not specific
Brontispa longissima
Calliteara horsfieldii
Callosciurus notatus
Candidatus Phytoplasma asteris
Caryedon serratus not specific
Cephrenes chrysozona
Ceratocystis paradoxa
Cercospora elaeidis
Cheromettia sumatrensis
Chondracris rosea
Chromolaena odorata
Chrysomphalus dictyospermi
Cleome rutidosperma
Coconut cadang-cadang viroid
Conyza canadensis
Coptotermes curvignathus
Crematopsyche pendula
Cyanthillium cinereum
Darna diducta
Darna furva
Darna trima
Dasychira mendosa
Date palm brittle leaf agent
Diocalandra frumenti
Drymaria cordata
Dysmicoccus brevipes
Elaeidobius kamerunicus
Elymnias hypermnestra
Emilia sonchifolia
Erechtites valerianifolius
Erionota thrax
Eupalamides cyparissias
Ferrisia virgata
Fusarium oxysporum f.sp. elaeidis
Ganoderma boninense
Ganoderma orbiforme
Ganoderma philippii
Globisporangium splendens
Glomerella cingulata not specific
Haematonectria haematococca
Helicotylenchus dihystera
Helicotylenchus multicinctus
Helicotylenchus pseudorobustus
Hemiberlesia lataniae
Hoplolaimus pararobustus
Hysteroneura setariae
Icerya seychellarum
Imatidium neivai
Imperata cylindrica
Ischaemum timorense
Lantana camara
Loriculus galgulus
Macrophomina phaseolina
Macroplectra nararia
Mahasena corbetti
Marasmius palmivorus
Megathyrsus maximus
Metisa plana
Mikania micrantha
Mimosa pudica
Momordica charantia
Murdannia nudiflora
Nelsonia canescens
Nipaecoccus nipae
Oligonychus coffeae
Oryctes boas
Oryctes monoceros
Oryctes rhinoceros
Pachymerus cardo
Pachymerus nucleorum
Papuana huebneri
Papuana woodlarkiana
Parodiella circumdata
Paspalum conjugatum
Passiflora foetida
Pennisetum polystachion
Pennisetum purpureum
Pestalotiopsis theae
Phellinus noxius
Phytomonas staheli
Phytophthora palmivora
Pimelephila ghesquierei
Pinnaspis strachani
Promecotheca cumingii
Promecotheca papuana
Pseudocochliobolus eragrostidis
Psittacula alexandri
Psittacula krameri
Psittacula longicauda
Psittacula roseata
Psittinus cyanurus
Pteroteinon laufella
Pythium myriotylum
Pythium vexans
Raoiella indica
Rattus argentiventer
Rattus rattus diardii
Rattus tiomanicus
Rhadinaphelenchus cocophilus
Rhinostomus barbirostris
Rhynchophorus ferrugineus
Rhynchophorus palmarum
Rhynchophorus phoenicis
Rhynchophorus vulneratus
Rigidoporus microporus
Rivina humilis
Scapanes australis
Setora nitens
Setothosea asigna
Sparganobasis subcruciata
Stachytarpheta jamaicensis
Stephanitis typica
Synedrella nodiflora
Temnoschoita quadripustulata
Tetranychus palmarum
Tetranychus piercei
Tetranychus truncatus
Thanatephorus cucumeris
Thosea monoloncha
Tirathaba mundella
Tirathaba rufivena
Trichogyia albistrigella
Tridax procumbens
Urochloa mutica
Xylosandrus crassiusculus
Xylotrupes gideon
Zonocerus variegatus
Zophiuma butawengi
Zophopetes cerymica

Notes on Natural Enemies

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E. guineensis in South-East Asia is remarkably free from pests and diseases. Occasional outbreaks of bagworms (Psychidea) and nettle and slug caterpillars (Limacodidae), notably in Sabah, Sumatra (Indonesia) and the Philippines, are easily controlled by a policy of minimum insecticidal intervention. The rhinoceros beetle (Oryctes rhinoceros) has readily adapted to the oil palms, but destruction of breeding sites and good ground cover generally ensures adequate control. Other insects occasionally cause some damage, including Tirathaba mundella (oil-palm bunch moth), some root-feeding cockchafers, and Valanga nigricornis (a grasshopper), but these are only a minor problem. Of the few diseases, Ganoderma causes high losses locally especially when coconut areas are replanted with oil palms. Infection takes place through contact with infected dead root tissue. Several diseases are observed in the nursery including brown germ, Curvularia leaf-spot, blast (Pythium and Rhizoctonia), though all are easily controlled by cultural and fungicidal treatments. A large number of other pests and diseases are detailed in many other general publications.

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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Methods of natural seed dispersal are not well documented. Being a species native to riverine areas water is a probably dispersal agent, but that the fruits are rich in edible oils also means that various animals may also play a role in local dissemination.

E. guineensis has been introduced with very few possible exceptions for its commercial value as an oil crop, and while further introduction of new varieties or germplasm is likely, it is probably already present in almost every country with a suitable climate.

Pathway Causes

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CauseNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Breeding and propagation Yes Duke (1983)
Digestion and excretionProbable, but no supporting refs Yes
Escape from confinement or garden escapeEvident, but no supporting refs Yes
Industrial purposes Yes Duke (1983)

Pathway Vectors

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VectorNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
WaterEvident, but no supporting refs Yes

Impact Summary

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Cultural/amenity Positive
Economic/livelihood Positive
Environment (generally) Negative
Human health Positive


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Economic Impact

The positive economic impact of E. guineensis to the national economies of at least 20 countries can be deduced from production data (FAO, 2009). To this can be added lesser amounts from many other countries not listed to give an indication of the massive benefits to the global economy in general.

Social Impact

E. guineensis is a relatively labour intensive crop, with one worker required to maintain and harvest approximately each 4 ha of plantation, and this, in additional to peripheral and downstream opportunities, E. guineensis provides a significant means of employment for many rural people in areas where it is grown. There are also many nutritional and custom benefits arising from local use of E. guineensis products (as detailed in Social Benefit).

Environmental Impact

Negative impacts of E. guineensis are almost entirely related to the destruction of native rainforest in order clear land for new plantations, especially in recent years to meet the rising demand for biofuels. Negative environmental impacts from the invasion of escaped E. guineensis populations are, at least as yet, insignificant in comparison.

Risk and Impact Factors

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  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • Has a broad native range
  • Abundant in its native range
  • Long lived
  • Fast growing
  • Has high reproductive potential
  • Has high genetic variability
Impact outcomes
  • Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
Impact mechanisms
  • Competition - monopolizing resources
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally accidentally


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Economic Value

E. guineensis is a major oil crop, taking second place in the world supply of vegetable oil after soya bean. World production and the area harvested for E. guineensis has increased steadily during the past 30 years to 139 million t and 11.4 million ha in 2003, respectively. South-East Asia is the main area of production with around 80% of the total world E. guineensis fruit production, and Malaysia dominates the palm oil market, with a total area under E. guineensis was 3.5 million ha in 2003 and exports were 12 million t of palm oil in 2003. Indonesia is the second major exporter, exporting 6.4 million t of palm oil in 2003 (see FAOStat for the most up to date data).

E. guineensis fruit yields two types of oil: palm oil from the fleshy mesocarp, and palm kernel oil from the kernel, in the volume ratio 10:1 which differ in composition and properties and consequently, find rather different applications. Ninety percent of all palm oil has traditionally been used for human consumption. For domestic use, the liquid fraction palm olein is satisfactory provided the ambient temperature is above 20°C. Main uses of exported palm oil are margarine, fat used in pastry production and in industrial frying of potato chips, instant noodles and snack foods. Fractions of palm oil are useful in confectionery. Palm stearin, the solid fraction of palm oil, is increasingly used in soap manufacture. Palm-derived fatty acids, mainly commercial grades of stearic and palmitic acids, form an alternative to the traditional products based on tallow. Palm kernel oil is a lauric-type oil similar in composition and properties to coconut oil. In Malaysia, increasing proportions of the palm-kernel oil are fractionated or hydrogenated for use in confectionery where the higher melting products are particularly useful. Palm kernel oil is also used for industrial purposes, either as an alternative to coconut oil in the manufacture of high-quality soaps, or as a source of short-chain and medium-chain fatty acids. These acids are chemical intermediates in the manufacture of fatty alcohols, esters, amines, amides and more sophisticated chemicals, which find a multitude of end-uses, for instance in surface-active agents, plastics, lubricants and cosmetics.

Non-food uses include, from palm oil, soaps and candles, and extensively in the tin plate industry, protecting cleaned iron surfaces before the tin is applied, as a lubricant, and in textile and rubber industries, whereas palm kernel oil is used in the manufacture of soaps and detergents, and press cake, after extraction of oil from the kernels, is used as livestock feed, containing 5-8% oil (Duke, 1983). It is also occasionally grown as an ornamental tree.

The central shoot or ‘cabbage’ is edible, leaves are used for thatching; petioles and rachices for fencing and for protecting the tops of retid walls, and waste from stripping bunches are used for mulching and manuring (Duke, 1983). Palm trunks available at replanting provide an excellent potential resource for paper and board production though this has not been exploited to date.

Social Benefit

Traditionally, plantation companies play a major role in E. guineensis production, however, in South-East Asia, government smallholder schemes have increased their share. In the native range of West Africa and less often where introduced, ‘palm wine’ is produced from extracted sap from male E. guineensis flowers, and it is an important product for local use, trade and customs, and is an important source of vitamin B complex, and is worth twice the value of the oil to local people from a single tree (Duke, 1983). The same name is, however, used to describe a similar drink produced from a large number of palm species including coconut amongst others. Fresh extract is refreshing and non-alcoholic but even after a few hours, fermentation has begun and the drink has become at least mildly alcoholic, where as after a day it has become a strong drink, before it tends to turn to vinegar. Plant extracts is also reported to be a folk remedy for cancer, headaches, and rheumatism (Duke, 1983).

Uses List

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Human food and beverage

  • Beverage base
  • Fruits
  • Oil/fat
  • Vegetable


  • Alcohol
  • Cosmetics
  • Mulches
  • Oils
  • Wood/timber

Medicinal, pharmaceutical

  • Cosmetic
  • Traditional/folklore


  • Christmas tree
  • Cut flower
  • garden plant
  • Potted plant
  • Propagation material
  • Seed trade

Wood Products

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  • Pallets


Other cellulose derivatives

Plastics from wood


  • Long-fibre pulp
  • Short-fibre pulp

Wood-based materials

  • Fibreboard
  • Gypsum board
  • Hardboard
  • Medium density fibreboard
  • Particleboard
  • Wood cement


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Corley RHV, Hardon JJ, Wood BJ, eds, 1976. Oil palm research. Amsterdam, Netherlands: Elsevier.

Hardon JJ, Rao V, Rajanaidu N, 1985. A review of oil-palm breeding. In: Russell GE, ed. Progress in plant breeding 1. London, UK: Butterworths.

Hartley CWS, 1977. The oil palm. 2nd edn. London, UK: Longman.

Turner PD, Bull RA, 1967. Diseases and disorders of the oil palm in Malaysia. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: Incorporated Society of Planters.

Turner PD, 1981. Oil palm diseases and disorders. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Wood BJ, 1968. Pests of oil palms in Malaysia and their control. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: Incorporated Society of Planters.


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Abadie C, Franqueville Hde, Renard JL, Alabouvette C, 1996. Effect of some crop techniques on the severity of oil palm vascular wilt. Plantations, Recherche, Développement, 3(4):259-271; [2 pl.]; 20 ref

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CABI, 2005. Forestry Compendium. Wallingford, UK: CABI

Chee KH, Chiu SB, Chan SM, 1997. Pre-nursery seedlings grown on pot trays. Planter, 73(855): 295-299

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Chin SA, Rajanaidu N, Mohd. Nasir HB, eds, 1987. Proceeding of the colloquium on breeding and selection for clonal oil palm. PORIM. 129pp

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Corley RHV, Tinker PB, 2003. The Oil Palm., UK: Blackwell Publishing

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Khoo KC, Lee TW, 1991. Pulp and paper from the oil palm. Appita Journal, 44(6):385-388; Paper presented at 45th Appita Annual General Conference, Melbourne, Australia, 1991; 9 ref

Kobayashi Y, Kamishima H, Akamatsu I, Abdul Halim Mohamad, Kamarudin, Mohamad Nor MY, 1987. Thermomechanical pulping and its application to empty fruit bunches of oil palm (Elaeis guineensis).Proceedings of the National Symposium on oil palm by products for agro-based industries. Workshop proceedings. Palm Oil Research Institite Malaysia (PORIM), No 11: 67-78pp

Lay TC, 1996. Integrated pest management of leaf-eating caterpillars of oil palms in Sabah. Planter, 72(844):395-405; 4 ref

Lim SunHeng, Leong LyneChing, 1996. The socio-economic impact of planting tropical timber species with plantation technology - agro-forestry. Planter, 72(849): 669-673. Paper presented at the Conference on Tropical Forests and Timber `96 organized by the Centre for Management Technology on 18-19 July, 1996 in Singapore

Mayes S, Jack PL, Marshall DF, Corley RHV, 1997. Construction of a RFLP genetic linkage map for oil palm (Elaeis guineensis Jacq.). Genome, 40(1): 116-122

Ministry of Agriculture, 1996. The Oil Palm in Malaysia. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Ministry of Agriculture and Co-operation. 255pp

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Mohamad Husin A Halim, Kamarudin Hassan, 1987. Manufacturing of oil palm fibre cement roofing tiles. A Preliminary study. Proceedings of the National Symposium on oil palm by-products for agro-based industries. Workshop proceedings, Palm Oil Research Institute Malaysia (PORIM), No. 11: 119-126pp

Moura JIL, Resende MLBde, Vilela EF, 1995. Integrated pest management of Rhynchophorus palmarum (L.) (Coleoptera: Curculionidae) in oil palm in Bahia. Anais da Sociedade Entomolo^acute~gica do Brasil, 24(3):501-506; 10 ref

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Prasertsan S, Prasertsan P, 1996. Biomass residues from palm oil mills in Thailand: an overview on quantity and potential usage. Biomass and Bioenergy, 11(5):387-395

Rahim S, Khozirah S, Salamah S, 1991. Effects of wood/gypsum ration and density on strength properties of gypsum-bonded particleboard from oil palm stems. Journal of Tropical Forest Science, 4(1): 80-86

Rahim S, Khozirah S, Salamah S, 1995. Cement-bonded particleboard from pre-soaked oil palm trunk; effect of particle size and chemical additive. Journal of Tropical Forest Products, 1(1):71-77

Rao VR, 1995. Productivity potentials of oil palm vis-a-vis other traditional annual oil yielding species in India: misconceptions and ground realities. Journal of Oilseeds Research, 12(2): 245-250

Rohani O, Rajanaidu N, Jalani S, 1997. Seed characteristics of African accessions of oil palm (Elaeis guineensis). Principes, 41(1): 5-11

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Tiong RHC, 1996. The regulatory roles of natural enemies of some oil palm insect pests. Planter, 72(849): 653-666

Tomimura Y, Koh MP, Khoo KC, 1996. MDF from the oil palm trunk - influence of parenchyma on MDF properties. Journal of Tropical Products, 2(1):125-128

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Distribution References

CABI, 2005. Forestry Compendium. In: Forestry Compendium, Wallingford, UK: CABI.

CABI, Undated. CABI Compendium: Status inferred from regional distribution. Wallingford, UK: CABI

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Links to Websites

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GISD/IASPMR: Invasive Alien Species Pathway Management Resource and DAISIE European Invasive Alien Species Gateway source for updated system data added to species habitat list.
Global register of Introduced and Invasive species (GRIIS) source for updated system data added to species habitat list.


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29/02/2008 Updated by:

Nick Pasiecznik, Consultant, France

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