Areca catechu (Betel Nut Palm)
Areca catechu (Arecaceae) is a slender palm.It is popularly known as betel nut palm, betel palm or betel nuts. Locally it is called Chalia which are chiefly used for chewing. It has a single cylindrical trunk with a diameter ranges between 25-40 cm and clearly ringed by the scars of fallen leaves. It can reach a height of 30 meters. The leaves are dark green, pinnate and 1-2 m long with 15 cm long petiole and several obliquely toothed leaflets. The upper most pinnae are fused to form a fishtail-like shape. It is monoecious (male and female flowers are borne on the same inflorescence). The flowers are 1 m long and borne on branched stems from below the crown shaft.The male flowers are sweet scented, sepal free, minute, 3 petalled and contain 6 stamens. The female flowers are imbricate, triangular sepals, 3 petalled contain rounded ovary. The fruit is red or orange drupe that is 5-6 cm long and 4-5 cm wide, containing one seed. The fruits are produced in large clusters of 200-300 and fruiting will occurs up to 30-60 years. The seed is red in colour and has globose shape. It usually begin to flowering and fruiting after 7 years from seed.
Areca catechu grow throughout tropical regions of Asia and East Africa while it is widely cultivated in West Indies. It is thought to be originated from Philippines, Sulawesi, New Guinea and Malaysia.
Landscaping Ideas of Areca catechu
In the wild, Areca catechu grows at the margins of rainforest. It colonizes secondary forest readily. It is used in intercropping with annuals such as tubers and other crops like cocoa (Theobroma cacao), banana, cardamom, pineapple and yams in order to provide a shady area.
How to grow Areca catechu
Areca catechu is propagated through seeds. As the seeds have a short viability so fresh seeds are used for sowing. For this purpose, the ripen seeds are collected from tree and dried for 1-2 days in sun before sowing. The germination of seeds take place in 6-13 weeks.
How to take care of Areca catechu
- Climate: Areca catechu requires warm and humid tropical climate.
- USDA Hardiness Zone:It is found in USDA hardiness zone is 11-12.
- Soil:It grows on variety of soil and has good water holding capacity.
- Elevation:It thrives at elevations below 1000 m andgenerally best at near the coastal areas while damages at 0°C.
- Watering:It is important to mist water on the leaves regularly.
- Shade Loving:It is a shade loving species therefore grown as a mix crop with fruit trees.
- Rainfall:It requires optimum rainfall of 500 mm annually.
- pH Range:It prefers a pH in the range 5.5-6.
- Fertilizer:It needs liquid fertilizer per month.
- Insect Attack: It is susceptible to many insects such as Guinea sugarcane weevil, spiraling whitefly, hispine beetle, caseworm and mealybugs.
- Fungal Disease: It is susceptible to many fungal diseases like Anthracnose,Phomopsis andSooty molds.
Commercial Uses of Areca catechu
- Availability:The seeds of Areca catechu is available in ground or sliced state.
- Used in Paans: The slices are typically used in paans by enclosing them in a betel leaf (Piper betle) and mixed with several spices, sometimes tobacco.
- Consumed in Powdered Form:The powdered of Areca catechu may be carried in a pouch and taken like tobacco snuff.
- Chewed Occasionally:The nuts are usually chew after meal at social occasions.
- Narcotic Properties:They have narcotic properties as it contains alkaloids and tannins which stimulates saliva flow, heart rate and perspiration.
- Sweeten Breath:They sweeten the breath and act as a stimulant.
- Aids in Intestinal Disorders:Their consumption relieves abdominal discomfort, kills intestinal worms and produce laxative effects.
- Expel Tapeworms: They are mainly used in veterinary medicine to expel tapeworms.
- Strengthen Teeth: They also strengthen teeth but its consumption in high quantity satins the saliva red, turns the teeth and gums black.
- Suppress Appetite:The chewing of these nuts also suppresses the appetite and sometimes results in oral carcinoma.
- Used as Vegetable:The young leaves and inner part of shoot is cooked and eaten as vegetable.
- Restriction:Due to its addictive properties, it is restricted in many countries.
Industrial Uses of Areca catechu
- Use as Dyes:Areca catechu is used to manufacture red and black dyes.
- Use as Insulation Material: It is an important industrial product used for particle board and insulation.
- Use for Thatching:The leaves are used for thatching and carrying water by making them into durable buckets.
- Use for Crockery & Bags:The leaf sheath is made into cups, plates and bags for carrying fish.
- Use for Fabrics:The husk fibers obtained from plant are used to make fluffy cushions and non-woven fabrics.
- Use in Building Material:The stem is used in building material in villages while timber cab be used in making of shelves, baskets and rulers.
Use to Make Nails:It is also used to make nails which are widely used in furniture industries.