Sugar palm (Arenga pinnata)

Sugar Palm plantThe Sugar Palm (also known as Arenga Palm, Areng palm, Black-fiber palm, Gomuti Palm, Black Sugar Palm, Aren, Areng Palm, Enau, Irok, and Kaong) tree grows about 15 meters (45 feet) high and has huge leaves up to 6 meters (18 feet) long. The trunk is covered with old leaf sheaths and ringed with black hairs and spines.  The leave grow alternately along the stem and are dark green on top and whitish underneath.  Needlelike structures stick out of the bases of the sharp-edged leaves. Showy yellowish flowers grow below the leaves and form large conspicuous dusters from which the fruits grow.  Fruit begins green and turns yellowish black or purple as the tree matures.  Each fruit is round or oval and has 2-3 seeds each (typically 3 seeds).

Where to Find: The underside of Sugar Palm leaves are typically grayish in color (and dark green on top)This palm is native to the East Indies but has been planted in many parts of the tropics. It can be found at the margins of forests and in disturbed areas.

Edible Parts: The chief use of this palm is for sugar. However, its seeds and the tip of its stems are a survival food. Bruise a young flower stalk with a stone or similar object and collect the juice as it comes out. It is an excellent source of sugar. Boil the seeds. Use the tip of the stems as a vegetable.

Other Uses: The shaggy, black, fibrous material at the base of the leaves makes an excellent rope, as it is strong and resists decay.

Note: The flesh covering the seeds may cause dermatitis.

Sugar Palm tree in the wild

Sugar Palm fruit broken open

Hundreds of Sugar Palm fruits

Sugar Palm fruit turns yellowish black when mature

The trunk of the Sugar Palm is often covered with spines and black hairlike structures

Color drawing of Sugar Palm illustratiing the tree, hanging fruit, and seeds

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