“Betel Nut Palm”
Natural Habitat: The original habitat is somewhat unknown, but it is thought to be peninsular Malaysia. However, the Areca catechu is naturalized throughout parts of India, Southeast Asia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Indonesia. The large distribution area is due in part to Pacific natives, who grow the palm for its seeds, which have a wide variety of uses.
Description: A solitary palm that can reach heights over 100 feet tall in habitat. In cultivation it will grow much shorter, reaching heights around 20-40 feet tall depending on where it is planted. 10-12 light green leaves emerge from a slightly swollen green crownshaft. The pinnate leaves have a heavy arch to them and can sometimes arch below the crownshaft. The trunk is dark green closest to the crownshaft and fades to gray over time. Prominent white rings cover the trunk, left by the falling leaves.
The most popular aspect of this palm is the fruits it produces which have a mild narcotic effect. The seeds can be chewed, turned into a beverage, or used as medicine.
There are a few different cultivated variations of the A. catechu including a golden crownshaft variety, a Orange crownshaft variety, and a dwarf variety.
Environment: The Areca catechu enjoys a sunny wet area where it can get plenty to moisture throughout the day. It can also be grown in a shady area but the lack of sun can slow its growth down. Its native range is very tropical, so this palm should be kept in tropical regions. It is not cold hardy and even a mild freeze or frost can be lethal. Many South Florida catechu met their match during the 09-10 freeze, but not all. Zone 11, marginal 10. If grown outside of zone 11, it should be grown in a protected area, preferably under canopy.