Areca catechu

Common name

betel nut palm

Description

Stems: Solitary, slender, to 10-12 m tall and 20-25 cm in diameter, with prominent white leaf scar rings on a green background that fades to gray with age. Leaves: Pinnate, with a stiffly arching rachis and leaflets held at a roughly 45-degree angle. The two apical leaflets are fused. The leaflets are ridged with 1-3 ribs, and the tips are jagged. The bright green crown shaft has a slightly swollen base and is up to 1 m long. Flowers and fruits: The inflorescence is about 1 m long and branched to as many as 3 orders with staminate and pistillate, fragrant, yellowish-white flowers. Fruits are orange to red and about 5 cm long.

Diagnostic features

Field: Solitary palm with alternating bands of bright green and white on the stem, below a bright green crown shaft; broad, ridged leaflets.

May be confused with

Adonidia merrillii, but Adonidia usually has a larger stem diameter for any given height, and it's fruits are held in much denser clusters. The apical leaflets of Adonidia are not fused as are those of the betel nut palm.

Distribution

Native to India and Southeast Asia to the Philippines and South Pacific, but the palm is a widespread crop plant and has naturalized in many wet tropical areas.

Additional comments

The betel nut palm is cultivated for use as a mild narcotic, a dye, and a veterinary medicine to treat parasitic worms.

Scientific name

Areca catechu L.

Family

Arecaceae/Palmae

Synonyms

Areca faufel Gaertn.

Areca himalayana Griff. ex H.Wendl.

Areca hortensis Lour.

Areca nigra Giseke ex H.Wendl.

Last Updated May 2014

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