Areca catechu L., Sp. Pl. 1189. 1753. Campbell, Gaz. Bomb. Pres. 25. 135.1886; Becc. & Hook. f. in Hook. f., l.c.; Talbot, For. Fl. Bomb. Sind 2:550. 1911; Blatter, l.c. 330-338; Benthall, l.c.; Bailey, l.c. 173; Cowen, Fl. Trees Shrubs Ind. ed. 5. 110. 1969; Whitmore, l.c.
English: Betel nut palm, Areca nut, India nut.
Vern.: Chalia, Supari.
KAMAL A. MALIK
Solitary Palm, up to 9 m tall, older portion of stem greyish, younger greenish; nodes prominent. Crown of 8-10 leaves, 90-135 cm long, arising from the top of the stem, leaflets unevenly divided, 2-4-ribbed, narrow, 50-55 in number, 30-45 cm long, glabrous, green, petiole smooth, unarmed, base enlarged into sheath, leaf-sheath 75-90 cm long, glabrous, smooth, green, forming a green swollen crown shaft. Inflorescence monoecious, much branched, bracts glabrous, branches thread-like, long, having zigzagged depressions, upper part of which bears small, sessile, creamy white, lemon-scented flowers in 2 ranks; male flowers numerous; sepals three, small, coriaceous; petals 0.3-0.4 cm long, coriaceous. Stamens 6, anthers linear, pistillode 3-lobed; female flowers in triads with 2 males, few at the base and axil of the branches; sepals 3, 1-1.3 cm long; petals 3, as long as the sepals. Stigmas 3, sessile. Ovary one-celled. Fruit oblong or ovoid, 4-5 cm long, orange, base enclosed with the perianths; upper wall fleshy, fibrous, seed single, endosperm ruminate.
Fl.Per.: October. Fr.Per.: Dec.-Jan.
Lectotype: Pinanga Rumphius, Herb. Arab. 1. Pl. 4. 1741 (Moore & Dransfield in Taxon 28(1,2/3): 67. 1979).
Distribution: Cultivated in the warm regions of Asia. In Pakistan it is cultivated as an ornamental plant.
The importance of the betel palm lies in the hard endosperm of the seed which on chewing is pleasant, soothing and narcotic. The sliced nut is wrapped in the leaf of the betel with a desh of lime and little kath, and chewed throughout India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Malesia, Borneo, Indonesia and E. Africa. Excessicve chewing results in a loss of appetite and may even be carcinogenic.
The dry expanded petioles serve as excellent ready made splints for fracture.