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Areca catechu L.

Areca catechu L.





Vernacular Names




Areca palm, areca nut palm, betel palm, betel nut palm.


Pinang (Indonesian), jambe (Javanese, Sundanese), pua (Lesser  Sunda Islands, the Moluccas).

Papua New Guinea



Bunga (Tagalog, Bisayas), takotob (Bikol), boa (Iloko).   


Sla, daëm sla.


Kôk hma:k.


Mak (General).


Cau, binh lang, t[aa]n lang.


Arequier (plant), noix d'arec (fruit).

Geographical Distributions

The ex­act origin of Areca catechu is unknown, but most probably originated from central Malaysia where it is known to be of very ancient cultivation and where variability of the genus Areca L. is greatest. A. catechu is only known from cultivation. Seem­ingly wild plants of A. catechu have always turned out to have been planted or distributed by humans. The culti­vation of A. catechu had spread from Malaysia to the Indian subcontinent in pre-historic times and this spread was to continue later, although slower. At present, A. catechu is cultivated pantropically but is of greatest importance in South and Southest Asia, where it is grown in almost every vil­lage garden.


Areca catechu is an erect, slender, unarmed, un­branched, solitary, pleonanthic, monoecious palm, which can reach up to 30 m tall and with a terminal crown of 8-12 leaves. Its root system is dense but superficial where most roots are within 1 m (3.3 ft) m radius from the trunk in the top 60 cm of the soil surface. Its trunk is cylindrical, measures 15-30 m tall, 10-15(-40) cm in diametre, grey-brown, and densely and regularly ringed with leaf scars.

The leaves are arranged spirally (phyllotaxy 2/5), crowded at the top trunk, measure 1-1.5 m long, paripinnate and sheathing. The sheath is 0.5-1 m long and completely encircles the stem like a tube. There are 30-50 pinnae, which are subopposite, linear to lance-shaped and measuring 30-75 cm x 3-7 cm. The longest is at the cen­tre of the blade, longitudinally plaited, with den­tate or irregularly incised apex, and dark green with the upper ones often partly cohering.

The inflorescence is 30-60 cm long, erect and appear­s on the trunk below the leaves crown (infrafo­liar). The tertiary branches are slender, spike-like, measure 15-25 cm long and very fragrant. Before opening, the in­florescence is enclosed by a double boat-shaped bract which opens longitudinally along the upper sur­face. The numerous male flowers are borne above the fe­male flowers, arranged in pairs in 2 rows, sessile, measuring about 6 mm x 3 mm, creamy and deciduous. There are 3 small sepals while the 3 petals are lance-shaped and larger. There are 6 stamens in 2 whorls. The female flowers are borne on the thickened bases of secondary and tertiary branches. There are 1-3 flowers per branch, which measure 1-2 cm x 1 cm, sessile, with persistent pe­rianth of 3 sepals and 3 longer, creamy-white petals. The ovary is trilocular (2 carpels usually abort­ing) and ovoid. There are 3 triangular and fleshy stigmas.

The fruit is an ovoid drupe, measuring 3-6(-10) cm x 2-5 cm, orange to red­dish and usually 1-seeded. The pericarp is fibrous and about 6 mm thick.

The seed (so-called nut) is ovoid, spherical or el­lipsoidal, and measuring 3-4 cm x 2-4 cm. The endosperm ruminates with hard reddish tissue from the inner integument that runs horizontally for some distance into pale brown endosperm.

Ecology / Cultivation

Areca catechu grows well in humid tropi­cal lowlands. At altitudes above 900 m, fruit quality and germination are adversely affected. It re­quires a high, well-distributed annual rainfall of 1500-5000 mm. In areas with dry spells, irrigation is needed. A. catechu can be grown on a wide range of soils. It thrives on fertile, well-drained and deep clay loams.

Line Drawing / Photograph



  1. Plant Resources of South-East Asia No.16: Stimulants.

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