Raphionacme utilis is an evergreen perennial herb growing 10cm or more tall from a tuberous rootstock. The root is up to 15cm in diameter[
In the early 20th century, this plant elicited some excitement as a potential source of rubber. However, attempts to grow it showed that the growth rate was much too slow for the plant to be economically viable.
Southern Africa - Angola to Malawi.
Grassland in Angola at an elevation of around 1,200 - 1,500 metres[
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A plant of the semi-arid tropics. It grows in areas where the dry season is about 7 months long and mists occur at other times of the year[
Requires a sunny position. The roots should not be buried too deeply, only enough to bring the stem end to the surface of the ground. Grows naturally in a moisture-retentive, deep and very sandy loam of finely divided, clean black earth[
The structure and habits of growth indicate that the plant behaves in nature as an extreme desert type able to survive with very little water and requiring several years to reach maturity.
Temporary roots appear to be sent out from any part of the permanent root.
The roots are a source of latex from which a good quality rubber can be made[
]. The roots contain less than 1% latex, but there is potential to increase this amount.
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