Family • Palmae - Arenga pinnata (Wurmb) Merr. - BLACK SUGAR PALM - Sui mu

Scientific names

Arenga pinnata (Wurmb) Merr.
Arenga gamuto (Houtt.) Merr.
Arenga saccharifera Labil. ex DC.
Arenga westerhoutii Griff.
Saguerus pinnatus Wurmb
Saguerus rumphii Roxb.
Saguerus westerhoutii Griff.
Borassus gomutus Lour.
Sagus gomutus Perr.
Caryota onusta Blanco
Guang lang (Chin.)

Other vernacular names

ARABIC: Nakhlet Es Sukkar.
BURMESE: Taung-Ong.
CHINESE: Sha Tang Ye Zi, Tang Shu.
DUTCH: Arengpalm, Arenpalm, Gomoetoepalm, Sagoeweerpalm, Suikerpalm.
FRENCH: Palmier à Sucre.
GERMAN: Zuckerpalme.
ITALIAN: Palma Da Zucchero.
JAPANESE: Satou Yashi.
MALAY: Kabung, Kabung Enau.
PORTUGUESE: Gomuteira.
RUSSIAN: Sakharnia Pal´ma (As a Saccharifera).
SPANISH: Barú, Bary, Palma De Azúcar, Palmera Del Azúcar.

Common names

Bagatbat (C. Bis.)
Bagobat (C. Bis.)
Bat-bat (C. Bis.)
Hibiok (P. Bis.)
Hidiok (Bik., P. Bis.)
Hiliok (Mbo.)
Ibiok (C. Bis.)
Idiog (C. Bis.)
Idiok (C., Bis.)
Igok (P. Bis.)
Irok (Sbl.)
Kabo-negro (Tag.)
Kaong (Tag.)
Kauing (Tag.)
Onay (C. Bis.)
Rapitan (Ilk.)
Unau (C. Bis.)
Malay sago palm (Engl.)
Areng palm (Engl.)
Black fiber palm (Engl.)
Black sugar palm (Engl.)
Solitary sugar palm (Engl.)
Sugar palm (Engl.)
Sui mu (Chin.)

Gen info
Kaong is considered the “official” sugar palm, the highest producer of the world’s many sugar-producing palms. Possibly the highest yielder and commercially grown in large scale production, it yields up to about 25 tons of sugar per hectare.

Kaong or sugar palm is a palm tree, with a stout trunk with distinct annular scars, growing to a height of 12 to 15 meters, with a diameter of about 40 centimeters. Leaves are ascending, 6 to 8.5 meters long, ascending, the sheathing basal parts covered with stout black fibers (kabo-negro fibers). Leaflets are up to 100 or more on each side, linear, 1 to 1.5 meters long, the tip lobed and variously toothed, the base 2-auricled, the lower surface white or pale. Inflorescence is axillary with stout, decurved peduncle, the pendulous branches very numerous, up to1.5 meters long. Male flowers are in pairs, about 12 millimeters long. Fruits are rounded or depressed rounded, about 5 centimeters in diameter, containing 2 to 3 seeds.

Additional Sources and Suggested Readings

(1) Tropical palms / FAO Corporate Document Repository

(2) Arenga pinnata: A Case Study of Indigenous Knowledge on the Utilization of A Wild Food Plant in West Java / Opan S.Suwartapradja / Aren Indonesia. •

(3) Edible Medicinal and Non-Medicinal Plants: Volume 1, Fruits / T. K. Lim / Google Books

(4) Why Organic Palm Sugar is the next big thing in natural sweeteners / Mike Adams / Natural News

(5) Coconut Palm Sugar / The Truth About Coconut Palm Sugar: The Other Side of the Story! / Tropical Traditions

(6) Perennial Staple Crops of the World / Animal Forage, Food Forests, Food Plants – Annual, Food Plants – Perennial, Medicinal Plants, Plant Systems, Seeds, Trees / by Eric Toensmeier / Permaculture Research Institute

Sugar palm flower, Arenga pinnata - 2

– Planted here and there about towns, and abundant in some forested areas, but never at any great distance from settled areas in Luzon (Rizal, Cavite, Bataan, Laguna, and Tayabas), Polilio, Biliran, and Mindanao.
– It almost disappeared in Cavite but thrives in the town of Indang that provides sanctuary to the trees.
– Generally planted in most islands and provinces.

– Yields sugar, starch, a fermented drink, alcohol, thatching material and fibers with industrial utility.
– The husk of the fruit contains numerous, microscopic needlelike, stinging crystals (raphides) that can be quite irritating.
– Bud is deficient in phosphorus and iron; only a fair source of calcium.
– Sweet sap: A single tree can yield a total if 6 liters per day, from 3 harvests that yields 2 liters per tap. The sweet sap is processed to brown sugar by continuous boiling for up to 6 hours, requiring regular stirring to ensure good mixing and avoid burning. Soon after coagulation, it is put into coconut shells or bamboo moulds where it cools and hardens.


– The unripe fruit is edible; ripe, is known to be a violent poison for dogs.
– The petiole fuzz is hemostatic and cicatrizant.
– Root is stomachic and pectoral.
– Petioles are diuretic and antihermic.
– Although the fruit’s immature endosperm is edible, the mesocarp pulp of the ripe fruits contain irritating needle crystals that make them inedible.
– Palm sugar is nutrient-rich and low-glycemic, rich in vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. It is not a calorie-free sweetener, but with its low-glycemic index, calories are absorbed at a much slower rate than sugar. Galvanic index is 35, compared to honey at 55-65, fructose corn syrup at 62, maltodextrin 105.
It has a glycemic index of 35. By comparison, the GI of honey is 55 – 60; high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), 62; regular table sugar, 68. Maltodextrin, a common powder often added to many sweeteners, has a GI of 105!

Parts used
Seeds and leaves.

– Immature seeds are edible, usually boiled with sugar.
– Edible starch from the stem and trunk.
– Young crown top or terminal bud (ubod or palm cabbage) is eaten as salad or cooked.
– The unripe fruit is reportedly edible, but when ripe is said to be a violent poison for dogs.
– Juice boiled down to make arenga syrup, used in various dishes, sweets, beverages, preserves; as sweetener for pastries, cakes, cereals, and juices.


– Stems are diuretic.
– Root decoction is beneficial to the lungs; assists digestion and improves appetite.
– Fuzz of petioles used as a hemostatic and cicatrizant.
– In other traditional systems, used for colds and sinus problems, sore throat and cold sores.
– In Cambodia, root is considered stomachic and pectoral.
– Petioles used as diuretic and antihermic. Used in chronic paludism with enlargement of the spleen.

Sugar: Palm sugar made from the sap.
Saguir: Sugary sap from the cut inflorescence makes a drink called saguir.
Arrack: Also fermented into arrack, a distilled liquor.
Vinegar: Sugary sap is processed into vinegar: sap is placed in earthen jars for 3 to 4 weeks, then pasteurized and bottled.
Weaving: Leaf base fiber used for making fish nets; leaflets for weaving baskets.
Poison: Fruit when ripe is said to be a violent poison for dogs.
Organic sweeteners
– Considered by some to be superior in taste to regular sugar, the taste resembling brown sugar, rich flavored with a tinge of caramel and butterscotch. And to boot, a lower glycemic index.

Study Findings
• Sound Absorption of Fiber: Arenga pinnata is an abundant natural fiber that can be used as sound proofing material. Study showed good sound absorption coefficients from 2000 Hz to 5000 Hz within the range of 0.75 – 0.90, with optimum sound absorption coefficient obtained from the 40 mm thickness. Results suggest the A. pinnata fiber to have potential as raw material for sound absorbing, with low cost, light weight, and biodegradability.
• Flexural Properties: Study evaluated the flexural properties of A. pinnata fibers as natural fiber and epoxy resin as matrix. Results showed the woven roving Arenga pinnata fiber has a better bonding between its fiber and matrix compared to long random and chopped random A. pinnata fibers.
• Socio-Economic Potentialities: A Case Study of Indigenous Knowledge on the Utilization of A Wild Food Plant in West Java: Gen info: Natural regeneration or seed diffusion through animal (civet) ingestion and excretion. Average life cycle of 15 to 20 years. Tapped sap processed into brown sugar, its main product. Parts potential: (a) Leaf: Young leaf can be used to roll a pinch of tobacco. Leaf is also used in agricultural ceremonies. As building material, leaves are woven into kiray units to roof huts in the field. Old leaves can be used for wrapping: brown sugar, durian, fruits, etc. (b) Leaf ribs are used for making lidi brooms; a woven bunch of lidi used as hammer to smoothen a mattress while it is being sun and aired. (c) Leaf stem used as carrying pole, rancatan. Also, it can be used as firewood and its ash as facial powder (wedak sarangkawung) to smoothen the skin. (d) Inflorescence: Used as religious item and ornament. (e) Fiber: Black fiber, ijuk, obtained from the bull length of the trunk, can be used for making brooms, brushes, septic tank filters, water filters, door mats, rope, fish nets, among others. (f) Kawul: Soft fiber that sticks to the tree trunk used as flammable material. (g) Trunk can be a source of either the sweet sap or starch. The starch is a source of food for humans (cakes, etc) and for livestock. The economic potential for starch is small compared to the sweet sap. The trunk is also a source of good quality wood for the production of bolo, axe, or sickle handles; also, as firewood. (h) Fruit is a source of additives for drinks, or used in making desserts.
• Glycemic Index: Study has shown palm sugar to be a healthy alternative sweetener with a glycemic index (reports vary from 30 to 36) that is lower than cane sugar, agave nectar, or honey.

Products (sugar, vinegar, arrack, etc.) in the cybermarket.