Mature trees are single-stemmed, and grow to 20 m tall. The leaves are pinnate, and reach between 3-5 m long. A young tree produces about 30 leaves a year. Established trees over 10 years produce about 20 leaves a year. The flowers are produced in dense clusters; each individual flower is small, with three sepals and three petals.
The palm fruit takes five to six months to mature from pollination to maturity.
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. When ripe, each bunch of fruit weigh 40-50 kilogrammes.
Oil is extracted from both the pulp of the fruit (palm oil, an edible oil) and the kernel (palm kernel oil, used in foods and for soap manufacture). For every 100 kilograms of fruit bunches, typically 22 kilograms of palm oil and 1.6 kilograms of palm kernel oil can be extracted.
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