Overview

Brief Summary

Areca catechu is the most widely cultivated species in the genus Areca and has been distributed by humans throughout the tropics. As a result of its long history of domestication, the geographic origin of this palm is not known with certainty (similar uncertainty surrounds the origin of Coconut (Cocos nucifera), Peach Palm (Bactris gasipaes ), and Sugar Palm (Arenga pinnata)). However, several origins have been suggested, including the Philippines, Malaysia, Celebes (Sulawesi), Java, New Guinea, and the Andaman Islands. 

The seed of this palm ("areca nut") is used in the preparation of betel quid, generally by combining it with slaked lime (which reduces the astringency of the tannins of areca nut; releases its alkaloids, especially arecoline; and aids the overall freshening effect on the mouth, making the betel quid both more palatable and physiologically effective) and the leaf of Piper betle (betel leaf). Areca palm seed is now among the most important stimulant products in the world, used by around 200 to 600 million people globally. It is often said to rank in extent of use below only caffeine, tobacco, and alcohol among addictive plant products. When seeds of this species are unavailable, seeds of certain wild palm species such as Pinanga dicksonii in South India or Areca macrocalyx in the Moluccas and New Guinea are sometimes substituted as inferior alternatives.

The fruit of A. catechu turns a yellow to scarlet color as it ripens and then consists of a thick fibrous pericarp, the so-called husk, that encloses the seed. Like other Areca palms, this species is an understory palm and thrives in humid tropical forests at low to medium elevations. Unlike some other members of its genus, A. catechu readily self-seeds and is tolerant of open conditions Although this species is most often encountered in village gardens, it is also grown on large-scale plantations in some areas, notably in India. Because this palm is planted mainly for betel quid production, fruits and seeds have been the main target for selection by growers, although cultivation for ornamental purposes has increased in recent years. In cultivation, variation is seen in the overall growth habit and the size, shape, color, and even taste of the fruits and seeds. (ZumbroichI 2008; Heatubun et al. 2012 and references therein)

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Comprehensive Description

Brief

Flowering class: Monocot Habit: Tree
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Distribution

"
Global Distribution

Cultivated from India to the Solomon Islands and less commonly in Africa and Tropical America

Indian distribution

State - Kerala, District/s: All Districts

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Distribution: Cultivated in the warm regions of Asia. In Pakistan it is cultivated as an ornamental plant.
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Localities documented in Tropicos sources

Areca catechu L.:
Malaysia (Asia)
China (Asia)
Comoros (Africa & Madagascar)

Note: This information is based on publications available through Tropicos and may not represent the entire distribution. Tropicos does not categorize distributions as native or non-native.
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Physical Description

Morphology

Description

Solitary Palm, up to 9 m tall, older portion of stem greyish, younger greenish; nodes prominent. Crown of 8-10 leaves, 90-135 cm long, arising from the top of the stem, leaflets unevenly divided, 2-4-ribbed, narrow, 50-55 in number, 30-45 cm long, glabrous, green, petiole smooth, unarmed, base enlarged into sheath, leaf-sheath 75-90 cm long, glabrous, smooth, green, forming a green swollen crown shaft. Inflorescence monoecious, much branched, bracts glabrous, branches thread-like, long, having zigzagged depressions, upper part of which bears small, sessile, creamy white, lemon-scented flowers in 2 ranks; male flowers numerous; sepals three, small, coriaceous; petals 0.3-0.4 cm long, coriaceous. Stamens 6, anthers linear, pistillode 3-lobed; female flowers in triads with 2 males, few at the base and axil of the branches; sepals 3, 1-1.3 cm long; petals 3, as long as the sepals. Stigmas 3, sessile. Ovary one-celled. Fruit oblong or ovoid, 4-5 cm long, orange, base enclosed with the perianths; upper wall fleshy, fibrous, seed single, endosperm ruminate.
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Diagnostic Description

Diagnostic

"Stem erect, hooped, unarmed. Leaves in a terminal crown, to 2 m long; leaflets many, linear or linear-lanceolate, base narrow, apex praemorse; lower ones plicate; upper ones coherent, nerves 2-5 or more, prominent. Spadices several on the axils of fallen leaves, to 50 cm long, branched, shortly peduncled; spikes flexuous or straight, to 30 cm long. Spathes boat-like, coriaceous. Flowers monoecious; lower ones female, 1-3 at spike-base; upper ones male, many. Male flowers: c. 3 mm long; sepals 3, c. 1 mm long, triangular; petals 3, c. 2.5 mm, ovate, white; stamens 6; pistillode 2-fid. Female flowers: c. 1.3 cm long; sepals c. 7 mm, obovate; petals to 1 cm; ovary to 8 mm, oblong, 1-celled, ovule solitary. Fruit to 4 x 2.5 cm, with fibrous mesocarps, orange-red in colour."
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Ecology

Habitat

General Habitat

Cultivated
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Life History and Behavior

Cyclicity

Flowering and fruiting: Throughout the year
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Flower/Fruit

Fl.Per.: October. Fr.Per.: Dec.-Jan.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Areca catechu

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Areca catechu

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 6
Specimens with Barcodes: 9
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Uses

Medicinal
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Wikipedia

Areca catechu

Areca catechu is the areca palm or areca nut palm betel palm, Filipino: bunga, Indonesia/Malay: pinang, Malayalam: അടക്ക adakka, Kannada: ಅಡಿಕೆ Adike), a species of palm which grows in much of the tropical Pacific, Asia, and parts of east Africa. The palm is believed to have originated in either Indonesia/Malaysia or the Philippines.[2] Areca is derived from a local name from the Malabar Coast of India and catechu is from another Malay name for this palm, caccu.

This palm is often called the betel tree because its fruit, the areca nut, is often chewed along with the betel leaf, a leaf from a vine of the Piperaceae family.

Growth[edit]

It is a medium-sized and palm tree, growing straight to 20 m tall, with a trunk 10–15 cm in diameter. The leaves are 1.5–2 m long, pinnate, with numerous, crowded leaflets. It is also known as puga in Sanskrit,"puwak" in sinhala and supari in Marathi and Gujarati.

Characteristics[edit]

19th century drawing of Areca catechu

Areca catechu is grown for its commercially important seed crop, the areca nut.

Penang Island, off the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia, Fua Mulaku in the Maldives, Guwahati in Assam, and coastal areas of Kerala and Karnataka in India, are some of the places named after a local name for areca nut.

Chemical composition[edit]

The seed contains alkaloids such as arecaidine and arecoline, which, when chewed, are intoxicating and slightly addictive. Areca palms are grown in Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Taiwan and many other Asian countries for their seeds.

The seed also contains condensed tannins (procyanidins) called arecatannins.,[3] which is carcinogenic.

Uses[edit]

The areca palm is also used as an interior landscaping species. It is often used in large indoor areas such as malls and hotels. It will not fruit or reach full size. Indoors, it is a slow growing, low water, high light plant that is sensitive to spider mites and occasionally mealybugs. The areca nut is also popular for chewing throughout some Asian countries, such as Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, and India and the Pacific, notably Papua New Guinea, where it is very popular. Chewing areca nut is quite popular among working classes in Taiwan. The nut itself can be addictive and has direct link to oral cancers.[4][5][6] Areca nuts in Taiwan will usually contain artificial additives such as limestone powder.

The extract of Areca catechu has been shown to have antidepressant properties in rodents,[7] but it may be addictive.[8]

Gallery[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Areca catechu information from NPGS/GRIN". www.ars-grin.gov. Retrieved 2008-03-02. 
  2. ^ Jones, D. (2001), Palms Throughout The World, Reed New Holland, Australia.
  3. ^ Kusumoto, Ines Tomoco; Nakabayashi, Takeshi; Kida, Hiroaki; Miyashiro, Hirotsugu; Hattori, Masao; Namba, Tsuneo; Shimotohno, Kunitada (1995). "Screening of various plant extracts used in ayurvedic medicine for inhibitory effects on human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) protease". Phytotherapy Research 9 (3): 180–184. doi:10.1002/ptr.2650090305. 
  4. ^ Thomas and MacLennan (1992). "Slaked lime and betel nut cancer in Papua New Guinea". The Lancet Oncology 340 (8819): 577–578. doi:10.1016/0140-6736(92)92109-S. PMID 1355157. 
  5. ^ Hemantha Amarasinghe (2010). "Betel-quid chewing with or without tobacco is a major risk factor for oral potentially malignant disorders in Sri Lanka: A case-control study". Oral Oncology 46 (4): 297–301. doi:10.1016/j.oraloncology.2010.01.017. PMID 20189448. 
  6. ^ The World Health Organization IARC Expert Group. "IARC Monographs on the Evaluation of the Carcinogenic Risk of Chemicals to Humans, Vol. 37, Tobacco Habits Other than Smoking; Betel-Quid and Areca-nut Chewing; and Some Related Nitrosamines, Lyon". IARCPress. 
  7. ^ Dar, Ahsana; Khatoon, Shagufta (1997). "Antidepressant Effects of Ethanol Extract of Areca catechu in Rodents". Phytotherapy Research 11 (2): 174–176. doi:10.1002/(SICI)1099-1573(199703)11:2<174::AID-PTR65>3.0.CO;2-B. 
  8. ^ Marcello Spinella (2001). The psychopharmacology of herbal medicine: plant drugs that alter mind, brain, and behavior. MIT Press. pp. 233–. ISBN 978-0-262-69265-6. Retrieved 14 October 2011. 
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Notes

Comments

The importance of the betel palm lies in the hard endosperm of the seed which on chewing is pleasant, soothing and narcotic. The sliced nut is wrapped in the leaf of the betel with a desh of lime and little kath, and chewed throughout India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Malesia, Borneo, Indonesia and E. Africa. Excessicve chewing results in a loss of appetite and may even be carcinogenic.

The dry expanded petioles serve as excellent ready made splints for fracture.

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Economic Significance

Areca catechu (betel nut palm) is chewed for its stimulating effects because of its muscarinic agonistic alkaloids.

  • Bennett, B.C.  2007.  Chapter 3:  Twenty-five Important Plant Families.  B.C. Bennett, editor.  UNESCO Encyclopedia of Life Support Systems.  http://eolss.net.
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