Betelnut - plant profile

Names

Betelnut, areca nut (English)
Pakku (Malayalam)
Supari, tari (Bangladesh)

Botanical name: Areca catechu
Family: Palmae, the palm family (also known as Arecaceae).

The plant

Betelnut is a slender, single-stemmed palm tree, up to 30m high. It has a crown of 8-12 leaves at the top.
A photograph of a betelnut palm.
Image: Betelnut palms are cultivated in South Asia.

Stem - cylindrical and about 10-15 cm wide. It is covered with rings, which are the scars of old leaves that have died and dropped off.

Leaves - 1 to 1.5 m long and feather-shaped. The base of each leaf completely encircles the palm stem like a tube. The leaves and leaf sheath can be used as a source of fibre for basketry and containers.

Flowers - both male and female flowers appear on the same plant on branched inflorescences below the crown of leaves. Male flowers grow close to the tips of flowering branches, while female flowers grow close to the base. They are tiny, fragrant and creamy-white in colour.

Fruits - ranging in colour from yellow through orange to red, 5cm in diameter and oval. There is one seed (called the 'nut') inside the fruit and it varies in shape from oval to round. The palm is cultivated for the hard, dried inner layer (endosperm) of its seeds. This is chewed by people in South Asia as a stimulant. The fruits are used as a source of tannin for dyeing.

More images of Betelnut