Hidden in the land of the rising sun, on the surrounding of Lake Yamur in the neck of the Bird’s Head Peninsula of Papua, on the border of Nabire Regency and Kaimana Regency of Papua province, bordering with Wondama Gulf of West Papua Province. There, strives a newly discovered betel nut palm called Areca Jokowi.
This is the third species of Areca to have been described recently from New Guinea that is closely related to the widespread, economically important species A. catechu, the cultivated betel nut palm. The founder was the Center of Biodiversity Research (Puslit Kehati) of University of Papua (Unipa) Manokwari, West Papua Barat.
The Head of Puslit Kehati Unipa, Charly Heatubun explained that this betel nut palm is a newly discovered species which is the result of an expedition conducted in the border between Papua and West Papua provinces since 2015. According to Charly, the betel nut palm is unique compared to other betel nut palms which are usually consumed by the locals. It is striving in the jungle, being cultivated by the local people around the lake.
The naming was decided as an appreciation from Unipa to President Joko Widodo. Jokowi is deemed as a great nation leader of the modern era. His humble demeanor is hoped to be able to bring the country to a brighter future.
At a glance, this plant looks like other betel nut palms such as Areka Makrokaliks, Areca Katiku, Areca Mandacani and Areca Unipa. The biggest difference is the number of flowers on the stalk, whereas other betel nut palms generally have only two, Areca Jokowi can have up to four, hence there are more flower clusters and more fruits. Other differences is the color of the female flowers. Generally, betel nut palms have them cream colored or light green, while Areca Jokowi is white. The leaves and the tree it self is more slender and taller compared to other betel nut palms.
Betel nut palms are commonly consumed in eastern Indonesia, and just like other betel nut palms, Areca Jokowi can also be consumed. However, there’s no further research about its edibility. There’s still no record of how big the arecoline contained in this type of betel nut palm, and this substance is addictive.
Furthermore, in Papua there are five types of betel nut palms and Areca Jokowi is the fifth one being discovered. It was discovered during the 2015 expedition and it has been published on 14th December in the Phytotaxa International journal under the trademark of Areca Jokowi.