We have recently published ‘Food Forest Plants for Hotter Conditions’: i.e. tropical and sub-tropical regions. We rely on regular donations to keep our free database going and help fund development of this and another book we are planning on food forest plants for Mediterranean climates. Please give what you can to keep PFAF properly funded. More >>>

Follow Us:


Arenga pinnata - (Wurmb.) Merr.

Common Name Solitary Sugar Palm
Family Arecaceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards The fruits of most species in this genus are poisonous and are sometimes used criminally[ 310 ]. The fleshy mesocarp of the fruits usually contains many oxalate crystals, making the flesh inedible[ 310 ]. (Plant has spines or sharp edges; use extreme caution when handling )
Habitats Usually found close to human settlements, often as a result of human activity[ 303 ]. Otherwise it prefers secondary forest at the border of primary rainforests[ 303 ]. Often found on sites poor in nutrients and mesic sites such as denuded hillsides[ 418 ].
Range E. Asia - probably India and Malaysia.
Edibility Rating    (4 of 5)
Other Uses    (4 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (1 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun
Arenga pinnata Solitary Sugar Palm

Arenga pinnata Solitary Sugar Palm
wikimedia.org User:W.A. Djatmiko


Translate this page:


Solitary Sugar Palm or Arenga pinnata is a monoecious feather palm of up to 20 m tall with a straight trunk that can be 30 - 65 cm in diameter. The trunk is covered with rough old leaf bases. Solitary sugar palm has a crown of large, pinnate leaves and an extensive root system. It is commonly grown in tropical Asia for many uses. Flowering stems are sources of drink and sugar from the sweet sap. It is also fermented into vinegar and wine. The apical bud is cooked as vegetable, or eaten raw. The leaves are also edible. The trunk pith, when grounded, can produce a sago-like flour that is used for cakes, noodles, and other dishes. The endosperm of young sugar palm fruit is cooked and known in West Java as kolang kaling or kaong in the Philippines. The roots can be a source of tea decoction that is used as relief for bladder problems. The leaf sheath is a source of gomuti or yonut fibre, a very strong and durable black fibre that is mainly used for making cables, marine work, thatching, upholstery, and brushes. Old woody leaf bases and the long leaves can be used for fuel. Young leaves, on the other hand, are sometimes used as cigarette paper. The roots are used as an insect repellent. Other common names are Sugar Palm, Arenga Palm, Areng Palm, Black-fibre Palm, Gomuti Palm, Aren, Enau, Irok, and Kaong.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of cone
Arenga pinnata is an evergreen Tree growing to 15 m (49ft) by 10 m (32ft) at a medium rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 10.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in heavy clay and nutritionally poor soils. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils and can grow in very acid and very alkaline soils.
It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Arenga gamuto Merr. Arenga griffithii Seem. ex H.Wendl. Arenga saccharifera Labill. ex DC. Borassus

Plant Habitats

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Leaves  Sap  Seed
Edible Uses: Drink  Sweetener

A drink and sugar are made from the sweet sap obtained from the flowering stems[ 297 , 303 ]. It is obtained by beating and bruising the developing inflorescence, which is then cut and a juice is obtained from the cut end over a period[ 297 ]. Leaves - cooked[ 297 , 763 ]. The appical bud, known as a 'palm heart' is sometimes used for food[ 297 ]. It can be eaten raw in salads or cooked as a vegetable[ 303 ]. Removing this bud will result in the death of the plant, since it is unable to produce side shoots[ K ]. A sago-like flour can be ground from the trunk pith and used for cakes, noodles and other dishes[ 46 , 303 , 418 ]. A product typically made from the plant in West Java is known as kolang kaling - this is the cooked endosperm of young sugar palm fruits. One infructescence yields about 4,500 endosperms. It is used for a cocktail and local refreshment known as kolak[ 303 ].

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.

Roots provide medicinal products, such as a tea decoction used to cure bladder trouble[ 303 ].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

The Bookshop: Edible Plant Books

Our Latest books on Perennial Plants For Food Forests and Permaculture Gardens in paperback or digital formats.

Food Forest Plants for Hotter Conditions: 250+ Plants For Tropical Food Forests & Permaculture Gardens.
Edible Tropical Plants

Food Forest Plants for Hotter Conditions: 250+ Plants For Tropical Food Forests & Permaculture Gardens.

Plants for Your Food Forest: 500 Plants for Temperate Food Forests & Permaculture Gardens.
Edible Temperate Plants

Plants for Your Food Forest: 500 Plants for Temperate Food Forests & Permaculture Gardens.

PFAF have eight books available in paperback and digital media.
More Books

PFAF have eight books available in paperback and digital formats. Browse the shop for more information.

Shop Now

Other Uses

Basketry  Broom  Containers  Fibre  Filter  Fuel  Insecticide  Paper  Plant support  Soil stabilization  Thatching  Tinder  Wood

Other uses rating: High (4/5). Agroforestry Uses: The plant has an extensive root system, up to 3 metres deep and 10 metres wide[ 303 ]. It has been planted, especially on slopes, for soil stabilization[ 303 ]. Other Uses The leaf sheath is a source of a tough, black fibre (gomuti or yonot fibre). It is not pliable enough to be used for purposes such as running rigging, but is very strong and durable and used chiefly for making cables and a very strong rope that is tolerant of both fresh and salt water and of fire; it is used for marine work, thatching, upholstery and brushes[ 297 , 303 , 454 ]. The hairs found on the base of the leaf sheaths are very good tinder for igniting fire[ 303 ]. The fibre, placed in the bottom of a vessel, is useful for filtering water of its physical impurities[ 454 ]. At the base of the leaves there is a woolly material used in caulking ships and stuffing cushions[ 459 ]. Old woody leaf bases, as well as the long leaves, can be used for fuel[ 303 ]. The split petioles are used for basketry and a form of marquetry[ 303 ]. The youngest leaves are sometimes used as cigarette paper[ 303 ]. The leaves are used as a source of thatching material[ 297 ]. The roots are a useful insect repellent[ 303 ]. The trunks of dead trees are allowed to rot and become hollow and are then used as water pipes[ 297 ]. The pith of the leaf rachis is an ideal shape for use as a drinking cup[ 303 ]. The very hard outer part of the trunk is used for barrels, flooring and furniture. Posts for pepper vines, boards, tool handles and musical instruments like drums are all made from the wood[ 303 ]

Special Uses

Carbon Farming  Food Forest

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Industrial Crop: Fiber  Management: Standard  Minor Global Crop  Other Systems: Multistrata  Staple Crop: Sugar

A plant of the moist, lowland tropics, where it is found at elevations up to 1,400 metres. It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are within the range 22 - 28c, but can tolerate 16 - 32c[ 418 ]. It prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range 3,000 - 3,500mm, but tolerates 2,000 - 4,000mm[ 418 ]. Prefers a deep fertile moisture-retentive but well-drained soil[ 297 , 303 ]. Plants grow well in full sun, even when small[ 297 , 418 ]. Prefers a pH in the range 6 - 7, tolerating 5 - 8[ 418 ]. The plant usually produces its first flowers when around 10 - 12 years old, though it can flower as early as 5 - 6 years[ 303 ]. Depending on altitude and temperature and to a lesser degree on factors such as soil fertility, climate and competing vegetation, the palms will stay in the rosette stage for 3.5 - 6 years, and then grow to full size in another 3 - 9 years[ 303 ]. Usually after 5 - 6 years, the fibres can be collected for the first time and after that, every 2 years[ 303 ]. When the palm begins flowering, tapping for the sweet sap can start, but farmers usually wait for the first male flowers. The sap is usually tapped only from male inflorescence stalks, because female inflorescences are said to produce sap of inferior quality, and the more fibrous stalk of the females requires extra effort to prepare. Usually, the closer to the ground the male inflorescence arises, the less sap it produces. One inflorescence can produce about 5 litres of sap a day. An inflorescence of sugar palm can be tapped for 1 - 2 months, and 2 - 4 inflorescences may be tapped at a time[ 303 ]. Since sago, the starchy layer on the inner part of the trunk, is obtained only by cutting trees, it is usually the last product obtained; trees are usually cut for sago when they are more than 30 years old[ 303 ]. The black roots are very strong, extending up to 10 metres from the stem and going as deep as 3 metres[ 418 ].

Carbon Farming

  • Industrial Crop: Fiber  Clothing, rugs, sheets, blankets etc. Currently, almost none of our fiber are produced from perennial crops but could be!
  • Management: Standard  Plants grow to their standard height. Harvest fruit, seeds, or other products. Non-Destructive management systems.
  • Minor Global Crop  These crops are already grown or traded around the world, but on a smaller scale than the global perennial staple and industrial crops, The annual value of a minor global crop is under $1 billion US. Examples include shea, carob, Brazil nuts and fibers such as ramie and sisal.
  • Other Systems: Multistrata  Multistrata agroforests feature multiple layers of trees often with herbaceous perennials, annual crops, and livestock.
  • Staple Crop: Sugar  Perennial sugar crops include sugarcane and compare favorably to annuals.

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

Temperature Converter

Type a value in the Celsius field to convert the value to Fahrenheit:



The PFAF Bookshop

Plants For A Future have a number of books available in paperback and digital form. Book titles include Edible Plants, Edible Perennials, Edible Trees,Edible Shrubs, Woodland Gardening, and Temperate Food Forest Plants. Our new book is Food Forest Plants For Hotter Conditions (Tropical and Sub-Tropical).

Shop Now

Plant Propagation

Seed - pre-soak for 24 hours in warm water and sow in deep containers. Alternatively, scratch the seed near the germination spot until the brown, inner seed-coat layer becomes visible, then soak in water overnight[ 303 ]. The seeds should then be seeded in a clean medium with good aeration, planted with the germination spot downward and covered with a 1-cm layer of sand. The sand should be kept moist at all times[ 303 ]. Within 2-3 weeks about 80% of the seeds will have germinated and can be transplanted to any type of container[ 303 ]. Germination varies from 2 - 12 months or more[ 297 ]. Direct sowing is possible but seedlings take a long time to establish well and may grow at irregular distances. Untreated seeds freely dispersed show 10-20% germination after 6 months[ 303 ]. Plants can also sometimes be propagated through suckers[ 303 ].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Solitary Sugar Palm or Arenga pinnata. Other common names are Sugar Palm, Arenga Palm, Areng Palm, Black-fibre Palm, Gomuti Palm, Aren, Enau, Irok, and Kaong.

Native Plant Search

Search over 900 plants ideal for food forests and permaculture gardens. Filter to search native plants to your area. The plants selected are the plants in our book 'Plants For Your Food Forest: 500 Plants for Temperate Food Forests and Permaculture Gardens, as well as plants chosen for our forthcoming related books for Tropical/Hot Wet Climates and Mediterranean/Hot Dry Climates. Native Plant Search

Found In

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

Coming Soon

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.

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther

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.


Expert comment


(Wurmb.) Merr.

Botanical References

Links / References

For a list of references used on this page please go here
A special thanks to Ken Fern for some of the information used on this page.

Readers comment

Add a comment

If you have important information about this plant that may help other users please add a comment or link below. Only comments or links that are felt to be directly relevant to a plant will be included. If you think a comment/link or information contained on this page is inaccurate or misleading we would welcome your feedback at [email protected]. If you have questions about a plant please use the Forum on this website as we do not have the resources to answer questions ourselves.

* Please note: the comments by website users are not necessarily those held by PFAF and may give misleading or inaccurate information.

To leave a comment please Register or login here All comments need to be approved so will not appear immediately.

Subject : Arenga pinnata  
© 2010, Plants For A Future. Plants For A Future is a charitable company limited by guarantee, registered in England and Wales. Charity No. 1057719, Company No. 3204567.