Sugarcane

Saccharum officinarum (Poaceae)

Characteristics

Perennial grass, 2-6 m tall, about 5 cm in diameter. It has stout, jointed fibrous stalks that are rich in sucrose, which accumulates in the stalk internodes. Sugarcane accounts for 79% of sugar produced; most of the rest is made from sugar beets.

Distribution

Native to the warm temperate to tropical regions of Southeast Asia and New Guinea. It was an ancient crop of the Austronesian and Papuan people and was introduced to Oceania and Madagascar in prehistoric times (canoe plant). The Persians and Greeks encountered the famous “reeds that produce honey without bees” in India between the 6th and 4th centuries BC. They adopted and then spread sugarcane agriculture. Merchants began to trade in sugar, which was considered a luxurious and expensive spice, from India. In the 18th century AD, sugarcane plantations began in Caribbean, South America, Indian Ocean and Pacific island nations and the need for laborers became a major driver of large migrations of people, some voluntarily accepting indentured servitude (e.g. Indo-Fijians) and others forcibly exported as slaves.

Natural Medical Properties

No known.

Did you know?

Sugarcane is the world’s largest crop by production quantity, with 1.9 billion tons per year. This is more than rice (0.7 billion tons) and maize (1.0 billion tons) together.

Brazil is accounting for 40% of the world’s total sugarcane production.

In Fiji, there is also growing Saccharum edule (duruka, dule), used for its edible inflorescence.

Further reading:

Literature

World Flora Online
WorldChecklist of Selected Plant Families
A working list of all plant species