Metroxylon sagu

Source: Dick Culbert

Metroxylon sagu

Metroxylon sagu or Sago Palm is a palm that contains sago, a kind of flour used as staple food, and which according to recent archaeological discoveries, could be one of the oldest plants cultivated by man.

In Xincun in China, on a Neolithic site, remains of sago were found in mortars and other grinding tools, among which the species Metroxylon sago. This would date the first culture of sago palm back to at least 5000 years (between 3000 and 2470 BC).

Metroxylon Sagu is the main species from which sago is extracted. Sago is also extracted from some Cycas species which are also called sago.


This palm tree produces many suckers.

The stipe measures 35-60 cm in diameter without petioles.

A stipe carries about 24 pinnate leaves, each measuring up to 10 m long. Each leaves bears 150-180 segments measuring up to 175 cm long. A new leaf is formed each month while the oldest leaf dies.

The species is monoecious: both male and female flowers on the same long terminal inflorescence. Flowering and fruition happen only once, then the palm tree dies and suckers takes over.

The fruit is globose, 3-5 cm in diameter, covered with 18 rows of vertical scales diamond-shaped, greenish yellow. The species produces both pollinated and non-pollinated fruit. It takes about 24 months to mature.

The rapid growth is very rapid, up to 1.5 m per year in optimal conditions.


The sago palm is the source of flour called sago. It is located inside the trunk and can be harvested for about 8 years, without damaging the plant.

When the palm tree dies after flowering, a sucker around the mother plant takes over and can in turn be harvested.

M. sagu is the most productive species for sago.

The leaves are used for the construction of roofs.


15 m

Common names:

Sago Palm, hebe nut palm, ivory nut palm, smooth sago palm, true sago palm


Sagus genuina, Sagus inermis, Sagus rumphii, Sagus spinosa


Metroxylon: from the Greek metra (spine ou parenchyma) and xylon (xylem)
Sagu: Javanese word meaning palm pith containing starch




Forests and freshwater swamps in tropical lowlands, usually near the sea level or up to 700 m if the precipitation is important.


Only once in a lifetime


USDA zone 10, 0 °C







Keep the soil moist. This is palm can survive in swamps and then develops aerial roots to obtain oxygen.


Ideally 25 °C


Ideally 70%