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Areca catechu - L.

Common Name Betel Palm, Betel Nut Palm
Family Arecaceae
USDA hardiness 11-12
Known Hazards Excessive use of this plant causes profuse salivation, vomiting and stupor[ 238 ].
Habitats An understorey plant of tropical, high rainfall forests, from sea level to 1,000 metres or more[ 200 , 297 ].
Range E. Asia - Philippines
Edibility Rating    (3 of 5)
Other Uses    (4 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (3 of 5)
Tender Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun
Areca catechu Betel Palm, Betel Nut Palm
Areca catechu Betel Palm, Betel Nut Palm


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Betel Palm or Areca catechu is a tropical palm of up to 30 m high with a straight and slender trunk. Its dark green leaves can spread 5m across. It is native to the Philippines but is now widely cultivates in the tropics of East Asia for its highly valuable seeds. Betel seeds can be eaten raw while young leaves, inflorescences and the sweet inner part of the shoots are cooked and eaten as vegetables. The seeds are used as a masticatory. Some of its medicinal functions are as follows: for relief of hunger, abdominal pains and exhaustion; against intestinal parasites and other pathogens; against tapeworms (in veterinary medicine); against anemia, leucoderma, leprosy, and obesity; as a purgative and an ointment for nasal ulcers; and as laxative and diuretic. Leaves are used for thatching and leaf sheath is made into cups, plates and bags. Betel Palm is a great source of tannins. Its wood is used in construction. Sometimes, the tree is used as an ornamental plant. Other common names are Areca Palm, Areca Nut Palm, Indian Nut, and Pinang Palm.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of cone
Areca catechu is an evergreen Tree growing to 15 m (49ft) by 8 m (26ft) at a medium rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 10 and is frost tender. The flowers are pollinated by Wind.
It is noted for attracting wildlife.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in heavy clay soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in very acid and saline soils.
It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil. The plant is not wind tolerant.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map



Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Fruit  Leaves  Seed  Shoots
Edible Uses:

Edible portion: Nut, Cabbage, Palm heart, Male flower. Seed - raw. The seed has mild narcotic properties, it is widely used in some areas of the tropics as a masticatory, being mixed with the leaves of a pepper plant (Piper betle), a gum and, often, lime[ 238 , 297 ]. Betel seeds contain tannins and alkaloids - these stimulate saliva flow, accelerate heart and perspiration rates, suppress hunger and offer positive protection against intestinal worms[ 238 ]. The ovoid fruit is 4 - 5cm long and produced in large clusters of 200 - 300[ 335 ]. Young leaves, inflorescences and the sweet inner part of the shoots are cooked and eaten as vegetables[ 46 , 301 ]. The skin of the fruit is edible[ 301 ]. The nut contains 8-12% fat that has characteristics comparable with hydrogenated coconut oil. It can be made edible by refining it with an alkali[ 303 ].

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Betel palm is an astringent, stimulant herb that relieves hunger, abdominal discomfort and weariness. It kills intestinal parasites and other pathogens, and also has diuretic and laxative effects[ 238 ]. It is used mainly in veterinary medicine to expel tapeworms[ 238 ]. The seed is used against anaemia, fits, leucoderma, leprosy, obesity and worms[ 303 ]. It is also used in the treatment of dysentery and malaria[ 238 ]. In combination with other ingredients, it is also a purgative and an ointment for nasal ulcers[ 303 ]. Kernels of green and mature fruits are chewed as an astringent and stimulant, often with the leaves or fruit of betel pepper (Piper betle) and slaked lime[ 303 , 320 ]. The rind is also used as a laxative in cases of constipation with flatulence and bloating, as well as a diuretic in treating oedema[ 238 ]. The fruits are harvested when fully ripe, and can be dried for later use[ 238 ]. The areca nut decoction as well as arecoline and its salts have been found to be effective on various parasitic helminth infections such as those caused by Taenia spp[ 303 ].

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Other Uses

Other uses rating: High (4/5). Agroforestry Uses: Experimental evidence indicates that intercropping with areca nut is not harmful to the main crop[ 303 ]. When intercropped with black pepper, it acts as a live standard for training the pepper plants. Banana, cardamom, cowpea, paddy, pineapple, sorghum, vegetables and yams are also grown by farmers as intercrops with areca nut[ 303 ]. Other Uses The leaves are used for thatching[ 297 ]. In some parts of Sri Lanka the chief vessels used for carrying water are made from the leaves of this graceful palm, which, being of leather-like consistency, are easily converted into strong and durable water buckets[ 454 ]. The leaf sheath is made into cups, plates, and bags for holding plantains, sweetmeats, and fish[ 454 ]. The flower sheath is made into skullcaps, small umbrellas, and dishes[ 454 ]. The husk fibres are predominantly composed of cellulose with varying proportions of hemi-cellulose, lignin, pectin and protopectin. Based on various tests, it has been proposed that the husk fibre could be used in making such items as thick boards, fluffy cushions and non-woven fabrics. Trial experiments have shown that satisfactory yield and quality of brown wrapping paper could be prepared from blends of areca nut and bamboo or banana pseudostem pulp[ 303 ]. Areca nut husk can be a good source of furfural. Possibilities of producing activated carbon from the husks have been investigated, and yields of 25-28% have been recorded[ 303 ]. The plant is a good source of tannins[ 303 ]. These are used for dyeing clothes, as adhesives in plywood manufacture etc[ 303 ]. The nut contains 8-12% fat that has characteristics comparable with hydrogenated coconut oil. It contains both saturated and unsaturated fatty acids[ 303 ]. The outside portion of betel palm stem forms a useful building material in the villages, and it is widely used throughout southeast Asia for a variety of construction purposes. The timber can also be used in making a variety of utility articles such as rulers, shelves and waste paper baskets[ 303 ]. Nails made from areca stem are widely used in the furniture industry[ 303 ].

Cultivation details

Industrial Crop: Starch  Management: Standard  Minor Global Crop

Plants succeed in moist tropical climates where temperatures never fall below 10c, the average annual rainfall is 1,500mm or more and the driest month has 25mm or more rain[ 297 ]. Prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range 1,500 - 5,000mm, evenly distributed through the year[ 320 ]. Although tolerant to moderate elevations on mountains, it generally does best at low elevations, especially near the coast[ 303 , 320 ]. Prefers a moist, well-drained soil and a position in full sun[ 238 ]. Being a shade-loving species, the betel palm always does well when grown as a mixed crop with fruit trees[ 303 ]. Prefers a pH in the range 5.5 - 6, tolerating 4.5 - 6.8[ 418 ]. Plants are drought sensitive[ 303 ]. Trees can commence bearing fruit in 6 - 10 years from seed[ 335 ]. The fruit take 6-8 months to ripen. Trees can continue fruiting for 30-60 years. Trees can flower throughout the year[ 335 ]. The sweet-scented male flowers are visited by bees and other insects for nectar, but insects have not been observed visiting the female flowers. It is thought that most of the flowers are wind pollinated[ 303 ]. The use of this herb is subject to legal restrictions in some countries[ 238 ].

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Seed - sow in containers[ 297 ]. The seed has a short viability so only fresh seed should be used[ 297 ]. Germination usually takes place in 6 - 13 weeks[ 297 ]. Areca nut is exclusively seed propagated. Seed nuts are allowed to ripen completely on the tree and then dried in the sun for 1-2 days before sowing 2.5 cm apart in shallow pits. Drying does not seem to improve germination rate. A spacing of 3 m between plants is the best spacing. Bananas can be used to provide temporary shade while betel nut palms get established. Holes 50 cm across and deep need to be dug. The seedlings should be planted 20 cm below ground level. As emerging prop roots develop the hole should be filled in.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Betel Palm or Areca catechu. Other common names are Areca Palm, Areca Nut Palm, Indian Nut, and Pinang Palm. Other Names: Adakka, Adike, Angiro, Areca nut, Bo, Bonga, Bu, Bua, Buai, Bunga, Chambe, Gaisa, Heta, Kasu, Kikiro fasia, Maak, Malua, Mpopoo, Nokalua, Nyia nwotapi, Ota, Pakku, Pan, Pijaka, Pinang, Poc, Poogiphalam, Pu, Pua liki, Pua mouku, Pua, Puak, Pugua, Supari, Vakka, Vua.

Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Found In: Africa, Andamans, Asia, Australia, Bangladesh, Burma, Cambodia, Cameroon, Central Africa, China, Cuba, Dominican Republic, East Africa, East Timor, Fiji, Guam, Haiti, Hawaii, India, Indochina, Indonesia, Jamaica, Laos, Malaysia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Northeastern India, Pacific, Pakistan, Palau, Papua New Guinea, PNG, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Samoa, SE Asia, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Tanzania, Thailand, Timor-Leste, USA, Vietnam, West Africa, West Indies, Yap.

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

None Known

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : This taxon has not yet been assessed.

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