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Saccharum officinarum - L.

Common Name Sugarcane, Purple Sugar Cane
Family Poaceae
USDA hardiness 8-12
Known Hazards Leaves and sheaths of some varieties are covered with a large number of siliceous hairs. These hairs penetrate the skin of cane cutters and are most unpleasant; hence cane cutters prefer varieties with few hairs or burnt cane[418 ]. (Plant has spines or sharp edges; use extreme caution when handling )
Habitats Not known as a wild plant.
Range Originated in cultivation.
Edibility Rating    (4 of 5)
Other Uses    (3 of 5)
Weed Potential Yes
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care (info)
Half Hardy Moist Soil Wet Soil Full sun
Saccharum officinarum Sugarcane, Purple Sugar Cane

Saccharum officinarum Sugarcane, Purple Sugar Cane
H. Zell wikimedia.org


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A grass species originated in Southeast Asia, Saccharum officinarum or Sugarcane is a perennial clump-forming plant reaching a height of up to 5m. The leaves are green, alternate, linear, and elongated with internodes, thick midribs, and saw-toothed edges. The leaf ash is used against sore eyes while stem juice is against sore throats, snake bites, and wounds from poison arrows. Leaf decoction, on the other hand, is used in the treatment of urinary conditions. The stems contains a very sweet sap which can be consumed as a drink, made into syrups, or dried to make sugar and molasses among others. It can also be manufactured into alcohol for used as a fuel in combustion engines. The stem also produces wax which can be used in the production of furniture, shoe, leather polishes, electrical insulating material, and waxed paper. Furthermore, the stem yields fiber used for paper-making. Cane residue once sugar is extracted is known as bagasse. It is used as a fuel and for manufacturing paper pulp, plastic, fiberboard, etc.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of flower
Saccharum officinarum is a PERENNIAL growing to 6 m (19ft) by 1.5 m (5ft) at a fast rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 9.
It can fix Nitrogen.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils and can grow in very acid and saline soils.
It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist or wet soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Arundo saccharifera Garsault Saccharifera officinalis Stokes Saccharum atrorubens Cuzent & Pancher e

Plant Habitats

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Sap  Stem
Edible Uses: Drink  Sweetener

The stems contain a very sweet sap[46 ]. They are crushed to extract this sap, which is then used in a variety of ways. It can be used as a sweet, refreshing drink, though it is more commonly concentrated to make syrups or dried to make sugar, molasses etc[46 ]. The core of fresh stems is chewed as a sweet refreshment[301 ].

References   More on Edible Uses

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.

The leaf ash is used to treat sore eyes[311 ]. The stem juice is used to treat sore throats[311 ]. The sweet juice in the stem is used to treat snakebite and wounds from poison arrows[348 ]. Mixed with an infusion of 'wallaba' (Eperua sp.) it is used to treat curare poisoning[348 ] A decoction of the young leaves is used to treat urinary conditions[348 ].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Alcohol  Biomass  Fibre  Fodder  Fuel  Insulation  Paper  Polish  Wax

Agroforestry Uses: Sugar cane is a very greedy crop that soon exhausts the soil. In some countries the plant is intercropped with indigo or other leguminous plants between the rows when the canes are first planted. These legumes are turned into the soil while they are still green and succulent. This process has a very beneficial effect[459 ]. Other Uses A wax obtained from the stems resembles carnauba wax[46 ]. It is used in the production of furniture, shoe, and leather polishes, electrical insulating material, and waxed paper[418 ]. The sweet sap from the stems can be manufactured into alcohol for used as a fuel in infernal combustion engines[46 ]. The stems are a source of fibre used for making paper[46 ]. Bagasse is the residue of the cane after the sugar is extracted. It is used as a fuel and for the manufacture of fibreboard, paper pulp, plastic, furfural, and cellulose[46 , 418 ]. Nitrogen fixation during decomposition of sugarcane (Saccharum officinarum) is an important contribution to nutrient supply in traditional dryland agricultural systems of Hawai'i.

Special Uses

Carbon Farming  Food Forest  Nitrogen Fixer

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Agroforestry Services: Nitrogen  Fodder: Bank  Global Crop  Industrial Crop: Biomass  Industrial Crop: Wax  Management: Hay  Other Systems: Dyke-pond  Other Systems: Homegarden  Staple Crop: Sugar

Most commercial sugarcane is grown at latitudes between 35N and S in the tropics, usually at elevations from sea level to 1,600 metres[418 ]. The plant grows best in areas where the mean annual rainfall is in the range 1,500 - 2,000mm, tolerating 1,000 - 5,000mm[418 ]. It prefers a mean annual temperature within the range 24° - 37°c, though can tolerate 15 - 41°c[418 ]. There are large differences between different cultivars in their tolerance to cold and susceptibility to frost[418 ]. Generally, long-term exposure to temperatures below 10c can be lethal, whilst even short periods at 0°c causes the leaves to become chlorotic, at about -3°c young plants turn brown and the terminal buds and leaves of mature cane die, when the temperature reaches -11.5c the whole plant dies[418 ]. Grows best in a sunny position. A very greedy plant, soon exhausting the soil of nutrients[459 ]. The plant is considered to be moderately tolerant to saline soil conditions and relatively tolerant of acid soils[418 ]. Grows best in a position sheltered from strong winds[418 ]. Prefers a pH in the range 5 - 8, but can tolerate 4.5 - 9[418 ]. Well-grown plants can become invasive[200 ]. When irrigated, yields of 100 - 150 tons of cane can be obtained from mature plants[418 ]. Young plants can yield 60 - 90 tons[418 ]. There are many named varieties[301 ]. The roots develop from the growth ring on the original planting piece and also from the new shoots that develop. The majority of the roots are thin and superficial with four fifths of the roots commonly found in the top 25 - 50cm of the soil. Thicker roots will penetrate to depths of 4 metres or more[418 ]. Flowering Time: Late Winter/Early Spring. Bloom Color: White/Near White.

Carbon Farming

  • Agroforestry Services: Nitrogen  Plants that contribute to nitrogen fixation include the legume family – Fabaceae.
  • Fodder: Bank  Fodder banks are plantings of high-quality fodder species. Their goal is to maintain healthy productive animals. They can be utilized all year, but are designed to bridge the forage scarcity of annual dry seasons. Fodder bank plants are usually trees or shrubs, and often legumes. The relatively deep roots of these woody perennials allow them to reach soil nutrients and moisture not available to grasses and herbaceous plants.
  • Global Crop  These crops are already grown or traded around the world. The annual value of each is more than $1 billion US Examples include coconuts, almonds, and bananas.
  • Industrial Crop: Biomass  Three broad categories: bamboos, resprouting woody plants, and giant grasses. uses include: protein, materials (paper, building materials, fibers, biochar etc.), chemicals (biobased chemicals), energy - biofuels
  • Industrial Crop: Wax  Water resistant, malleable substances. Currently, most commercial wax is made from paraffin - a fossil fuel.
  • Management: Hay  Cut to the ground and harvested annually. Non-destructive management systems maintaining the soil organic carbon.
  • Other Systems: Dyke-pond  Aquaforestry integrating, fish, livestock and crops.
  • Other Systems: Homegarden  Tropical multistrata agroforestry (multi-story combinations of trees, crops, domestic animals in the homestead).
  • Staple Crop: Sugar  Perennial sugar crops include sugarcane and compare favorably to annuals.

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

Temperature Converter

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Plant Propagation

Seed - Cuttings, consisting of 2 - 3 joints of the upper part of a stem that has been selected from a vigorous, healthy plant. They are placed in the ground with only 2 - 5cm of the cutting projecting above the surface. In about two weeks from planting the 'eyes' at each node will send forth shoots, and roots will grow from the nodes themselves. As the shoots develop, the parent stem decays and the young plants produce roots of their own[459 ].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Sugarcane, Purple Sugar Cane, Burgundy Sugar Cane, Black Magic Repellent Plant, Ampow, Arekie, Bos, Bus, Cana de acucar, Cana sacarina, Canna da zuccehero, Canne a sucre, Cheruku, Dovu, Ebikajjo, Fo'u, Ganiesi, Ganna, Guru, Hetaru, Hong gan zhe, Ikshu, Karimbu, Karumbu, Kelju, Khanda, Kolchu, Maphu, Menhet, Mihali, Misale, Mlungo muwa, Moko, Mzimbe, Njuwa, Oy, Paat, Patta patti kabbu, Paunda, Poovan, Pundia, Rosan, Sarkara, Satou kibi, Sau, Tebu, Te kaisoka, Te taiokeken, Tiwu, To, Tolo, Ukhu, Zuckerrohr, akh, akhu, asipatra, bhurirasa, cana, cana-de-açúcar, canne à sucre, caña de azúcar, caña dulce, cheraku, cheruku, dirghacchada, ganna, gheraku, gudamula, gániesi, ikh, ikha, ikshu, iksu, ik?u, ik?u (root stock), ik?u (stem), kabbu, karimpu, karumbu, karumbu ver, kuhiyare, kusiyar, naishkar, noble sugarcane, qasab el-sokkar, satangsusu, sato-kibi, serdi, sheradi, sherdi, sockerrör, sucrose, sugar cane, sugar cane|uk, sugar-cane, sugarcane, tisnak, t??arasa, us, ush, zukerrohr.

Africa, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Asia, Australia, Bangladesh*, Barbados, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Burma, Cambodia, Cameroon, Caribbean, Central Africa, Central African Republic, Central America, China, Colombia, Congo DR, Congo, Cook Islands, Costa Rica, Côte d'Ivoire, Cuba, Dominican Republic, East Africa, East Timor, Ecuador, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Fiji, French Guiana, Ghana, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinée, Guyana, Haiti, Hawaii, Hispaniola, Honduras, India, Indochina, Indonesia, Ivory Coast, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Kiribati, Laos, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Marshall Islands, Martinique, Mauritius, Mediterranean, Mexico, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nauru, Nepal, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, North America, Northeastern India, Pacific, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea*, PNG, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Reunion, Samoa, SE Asia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Southern Africa, South America, South Sudan, Spain, Sri Lanka, St Lucia, Suriname, Swaziland, Taiwan, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Togo, Tokelau, Tonga, Uganda, USA, Vanuatu, Vietnam, West Africa, West Indies, Zambia, Zimbabwe,

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.

Well-grown plants can become invasive[200 ].

Conservation Status

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

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Acer saccharumSugar Maple, Florida Maple, Hard Maple, Rock MapleTree30.0 4-8 SLMHSNM424
Acer saccharum grandidentatumBig-Tooth Maple, Canyon Maple, Rocky Mountain Sugar MapleTree12.0 5-8  LMHSNM403
Acer saccharum nigrumBlack MapleTree25.0 4-6 SLMHSNM412
Saccharum hybridsEnergy CanePerennial6.0 8-12 FLMHNMWe424

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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Botanical References

Links / References

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A special thanks to Ken Fern for some of the information used on this page.

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