Arecaceae (Palm family)

Description. Slender, single-trunked palm, 10-20 m (33-66 ft) tall, with 8-12 pinnate fronds. Leaves 1-1.5 m (3.3-5 ft) long with 30-50 leaflets. Small, greenish-white flowers in dense, pendent inflorescences borne below the crown shaft. Yellow, orange, or bright red ovoid fruits (drupes) 6 to 9 cm (2.4-3.5 in) long with fibrous pericarp and a single, large seed.

Benefits Of: BETEL NUT ARECA PALM Photo Gallery

Origin and Distribution. The exact origin of the plant is unknown, since the palm is closely associated with human settlements and early migrations. Possibly native to the Philippines and Southeast Asia. Today the betel nut is widely cultivated from East Africa through tropical Asia to Oceania. The palm is typically planted in home gardens. Often cultivated as an ornamental.

Food uses. The seeds of ripe or unripe betel nuts are consumed as a mild narcotic. Slices of the seed are boiled or roasted with limestone and often other spices like cinnamon or catechu (Acacia catechu). The seeds are chewed together with leaves of the betel pepper (Piper betle, p. 299) and lime juice. The chewing of betel nuts is said to cause euphoria and a sense of well-being, a hot sensation in the body, and heightened alertness. Continuous use may cause addiction and cancer of the mouth and tongue. The palm heart, although bitter, is eaten as a vegetable in the Philippines. The tender shoots are also eaten after being cooked in syrup.

Comments. The oil-rich endosperm of the seeds contains tannins and several alkaloids like arecaine and arecoline, which are mainly responsible for the intoxicating effects of the fruit. Betel nuts are also used in traditional medicine in a variety of applications. Extracts of the seeds are employed internally to eliminate internal parasites.

Description. Solitary palm with black spines on gray trunk, 15-18 m (50-60 ft) tall. Pinnate leaves 3-4 m (10-13 ft) long with irregularly arranged, linear leaflets, each 0.8-1 m (2.6-3.3 ft) long. Small pale yellow flowers in branched inflorescences 1-1.5 m (3.3-5 ft) long. Fruits are yellowish-green, globose drupes measuring 3-5 cm (1.2-2 in) in diameter and containing a single seed.

Origin and Distribution. Native to tropical America from southern Mexico and the Caribbean south to northern Argentina and Paraguay. The tree grows in a variety of habitats but is found mostly in seasonally dry lowland forests. Occasionally cultivated as an ornamental, but usually rare outside its natural range.

Food uses. The sweet-tasting seed kernels of ripe fruits are sometimes eaten as a snack. The heart of the palm is used as a vegetable and eaten raw in salads or cooked. Young, tender leaves are eaten as a green vegetable. The flesh of ripe fruits has a somewhat bitter taste, though it is eaten as a snack by some people. The palm is known mostly for being the source of sugary sap that is fermented into an alcoholic winelike drink called coyol in Central America. The sap is harvested by cutting the terminal bud lengthwise.

Comments. This palm is known by numerous synonyms, including A. vinifera, A. lasiospatha, and A. sclerocarpa.

Description. Multistemmed palm 6-12 m (20-40 ft) tall with erect trunks densely covered in sharp spines up to 10 cm (4 in) long. Pinnate leaves 3-6 m (1020 ft) long with irregularly arranged leaflets and black spines on the rachises. Monoecious flowers are borne in branched inflorescences. Fruits are greenish-orange ovoid drupes, 2-4 cm (0.8-1.6 in) long and with a single seed.

Origin and Distribution. Native to the Amazon basin of South America, especially along the Rio Negro and the upper Orinoco. The plant, which thrives in hot, humid climates, is rarely cultivated.

Food uses. The fleshy mesocarp of the fruit is edible. The palm heart, which is of very good quality, is used raw in salads or used cooked as an ingredient in savory dishes. The seeds provide an edible oil that is used by indigenous tribes for cooking.

Comments. The fruits are eaten by at least 16 species of fish, which either gnaw the pulp, fragment the seed, or swallow the entire fruit, thus acting as dispersal agents. The fruiting season of the jauari palm is synchronized with annual flooding, ensuring optimal dispersal.

Description. Multi- or single-stemmed palm with trunk covered in long, black spines, 5-18 m (1660 ft) tall. Pinnate leaves about 3 m (10 ft) long with a 1-m-long (3.3 ft) petiole. The rachis is covered in black or brown spines. Leaflets linear, 92-123 per side, irregularly arranged in different planes. Flowers are produced in inflorescences, with 45-57 flowering branches and yellowish male and female flowers. Fruits, which grow in pendent clusters of up to 250 fruits, are ovoid or conical in shape, 3-5 cm (1.2-2 in) in diameter, and have leathery red, orange, or yellow skin and an orange-colored, mealy flesh with 1 or sometimes no seed. The fruits have a unique, agreeable taste, somewhat reminiscent of a winter squash with drier texture. Origin and Distribution. The peach palm is extensively cultivated throughout humid tropical regions of Central and South America. The closest wild relative from which it seems to be selected is B. ma-cana, which grows in the western Amazon basin.

Food uses. This delicious fruit is almost never eaten raw, but commonly boiled in saltwater for at least an hour, often with pork fat. When cool, the fruits are peeled, seeded, halved, and served with mayonnaise. In Colombia, halved fruits are eaten with honey. Dried fruits can be ground into flour. Indigenous tribes use fermented fruits to produce chicha, an alcoholic, beerlike beverage.

Comments. The peach palm is a major source of palm hearts, an exquisite vegetable extracted from the inner core and growing bud of the palm tree. The fruits contain about 3-8% fat and 3% protein and are high in calcium, phosphorous, iron, and vitamins A and C.

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