Areca Jokowi: the Betel Nut Palm from Papua with a Famous Name

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.
areca jokowi
Areca jokowi. A. Slender habit with irregular crown shape. B. Leaf and inflorescence held by Christian Anggua for scale. C. Inflorescence-a strongly divaricate panicle with crowded rachillae. D. Pistillate flowers, striking in their white colour. E. Close up of pistillate flower at anthesis showing stigma. F. Young fruit in section. A–E photos were taken from the holotype specimen (Heatubun et al. 1252), F from voucher collected by Ekspedisi NKRI Koridor Papua Barat 2016. Photos: A, F (Lt. Ardiansyah), B–E (Charlie D. Heatubun) via


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.
areca jokowi
Jokowi’s Time cover via
 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.


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