Betelnuts grow on palm trees and are much used for their stimulant properties. Long-term use can lead to serious health problems.
Botanical watercolour and gouache of a betelnut tree with fruit.
Special containers
Betel boxes are made across South and Southeast Asia and are often given as gifts at weddings.
A potent mixture
Betelnut is usually chewed with betel pepper leaves (paan) and lime paste, which increases the stimulating effect. A host of other ingredients might also be added including cardamom and cloves. Betel chewing stains the mouth and gums red.
Walking sticks
Kew's collection includes walking sticks made from sliced betelnut seeds. Each section has a hole bored through it and has been threaded onto an iron rod which forms the core of the stick. Needless to say they are very heavy!
A health risk
Previously regarded as safe, long-term use of betelnut is now recognised as a cancer risk, especially if combined with alcohol or tobacco.