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)
- Heatubun, CD., J. Dransfield, T. FlynnS.S. Tjitrosoedirdjo, J.P. Mogea, and W.J. Baker. 2012. A monograph of the betel nut palms (Areca: Arecaceae) of East Malesia. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 168: 147–173.
- Zumbroich, T.J. 2008. The origin and diffusion of betel chewing: a synthesis of evidence from South Asia, Southeast Asia and beyond. eJournal of Indian Medicine Volume 1 (2007–2008): 87–140.
Cultivated from India to the Solomon Islands and less commonly in Africa and Tropical America
State - Kerala, District/s: All Districts"
Localities documented in Tropicos sources
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.
- SPECIMEN BASED RECORD. Published protolog data. http://www.tropicos.org/Reference/9990002
- Ludwig, N. 1999. Notes on the palms of Mayotte, Comoro Islands, Indian Ocean. Palms 43(3): 149–151. http://www.tropicos.org/Reference/1010737
- Flora of China Editorial Committee. 1988-2013. Fl. China Unpaginated. Science Press & Missouri Botanical Garden Press, Beijing & St. Louis. http://www.tropicos.org/Reference/42480
- Flora of China Editorial Committee. 2010. Fl. China 23: 1–515. Science Press & Missouri Botanical Garden Press, Beijing & St. Louis. http://www.tropicos.org/Reference/100001734
Life History and Behavior
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Areca catechu
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Areca catechu
Public Records: 6
Specimens with Barcodes: 9
Species With Barcodes: 1
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
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. Areca is derived from a local name from the Malabar Coast of India and catechu is from another Malay name for this palm, caccu.
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 and supari in Marathi and Gujarati.
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.
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 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. Areca nuts in Taiwan will usually contain artificial additives such as limestone powder.
An Areca catechu plantation in Taiwan
Areca catechu farm in Kerala, India
Young "betel" nuts in Malaysia
- "Areca catechu information from NPGS/GRIN". www.ars-grin.gov. Retrieved 2008-03-02.
- Jones, D. (2001), Palms Throughout The World, Reed New Holland, Australia.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
The dry expanded petioles serve as excellent ready made splints for fracture.
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.