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Saccharum officinarum (sugar cane)

Sugar is extracted from the sweet, juicy stems of sugar cane, and is used worldwide as a sweetener, preservative and in the cosmetics industry.
Field of sugar cane

Field of sugar cane

Species information

Scientific name: 

Saccharum officinarum L.

Common name: 

sugar cane, noble cane (English); ikshu, khanda, sarkara (Sanskrit); pundia, paunda (Hindi); poovan karumbu (Tamil)

Conservation status: 

Not evaluated according to IUCN Red List criteria; widespread in cultivation.


Hot humid tropics, in moist soils.

Key Uses: 

Food and drink, medicine, alcohol production, biofuel, hair removal.

Known hazards: 

Sugar consumption can be a factor in tooth decay and obesity.


Genus: Saccharum

About this species

Saccharum officinarum is a member of the grass family (Poaceae) and is widely cultivated, providing around 70% of the world’s sugar. Sugar cane yields the highest number of calories per unit area of cultivation of any plant.

Sugar cane probably originated in New Guinea, and was taken to the Americas by the explorer Christopher Columbus on his second expedition there in 1493. Sugar cane is now grown in more than 70 countries, mainly in the tropics, but also in some sub-tropical areas. India and Brazil produce about half the world’s cane sugar.

The word 'sugar' is thought to derive from the ancient Sanskrit 'sharkara'.


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