Areca catechu (Betelnut Palm)

Scientific name

Areca catechu  L.


Areca nigra H. Wendland

Common names

Betelnut palm, areca nut, areca quid




South East Asia

Naturalised distribution (global)

Locations within which Areca catechu is naturalised include parts of Sri Lanka and eastern Africa.

Introduced, naturalised or invasive in East Africa

Areca catechu is invasive in parts of Tanzania (Tropical Biology Association 2010) and has been introduced to Kenya (Maundu and Tegnas 2005). The editors are not aware of records of this species in Uganda, though this does not necessarily mean that it is absent from this country.


Areca catechu invades forest gaps and edges and it is capable of invading undisturbed forest.


Areca catechu  is a slender palm typically reaching 10 - 20 m tall.

Fronds are simple pinnate (once-divided), pinnae (leaflets) are lanceolate (lance-shaped). The single slender green trunk ages to grey with prominent white leaf scars.

Flowers are unisexual, inflorescences are crowded, much branched panicles borne below the leaves.

Reproduction and dispersal

Flowering begins at 4-6 years of age; trees begin to bear fruit at 7-8 years. The seeds are dispersed by animals.

Economic and other uses

Cultivated and planted in home gardens for the sweet fruit. Also planted as an ornamental. Used as a source of traditional medicines and essential oils in some countries. 5% of the world's population chew the nut as a stimulant but heavy use can have long term health impacts.

Environmental and other impacts

Areca catechu is shade-tolerant and can invade undisturbed forest.


The precise management measures adopted for any plant invasion will depend upon factors such as the terrain, the cost and availability of labour, the severity of the infestation and the presence of other invasive species. Some components of an integrated management approach are introduced below.

The best form of invasive species management is prevention. If prevention is no longer possible, it is best to treat the weed infestations when they are small to prevent them from establishing (early detection and rapid response). Controlling the weed before it seeds will reduce future problems. Control is generally best applied to the least infested areas before dense infestations are tackled. Consistent follow-up work is required for sustainable management.

Small plants can be uprooted and trees can be cut down as the palm cannot regenerate from cut stumps. Even so follow up is needed to ensure that control is sustainable.

The editors could find no information on any biological control agents for this species.


Not listed as a noxious weed by the state or governments in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.


CABI Crop Compendium online data sheet. Areca catechu (betelnut palm). CABI Publishing 2011. Accessed March 2011.

Koehler, H.A. (1887). "Medicinal-Plants'' - Atlas zur Pharmecopoea germanica, austriaca, belgica, danica, helvetica, hungarica, rossica, suecica, Neerlandica, British pharmacopoeia zum Codex medicamentarius, sowie zur Pharmacopoeia of the United States of America. Band 2.

Maundu, P. and Tegnas, B. (2005). eds. Useful Trees and Shrubs for Kenya, World Agroforestry Centre, Nairobi.

Traditional Trees Initiative. Areca catechu species profile. Accessed February 2011.

Tropical Biology Association (2010). Usambara Invasive Plants - Amani Nature Reserve -


Agnes Lusweti, National Museums of Kenya; Emily Wabuyele, National Museums of Kenya, Paul Ssegawa, Makerere University; John Mauremootoo, BioNET-INTERNATIONAL Secretariat - UK.


This fact sheet is adapted from The Environmental Weeds of Australia by Sheldon Navie and Steve Adkins, Centre for Biological Information Technology, University of Queensland. We recognise the support from the National Museums of Kenya, Tropical Pesticides Research Institute (TPRI) - Tanzania and Makerere University, Uganda. This activity was undertaken as part of the BioNET-EAFRINET UVIMA Project (Taxonomy for Development in East Africa).


BioNET-EAFRINET Regional Coordinator: [email protected]