Sugar cane

Sugar cane

Saccharum officinarum or Sugar Cane is a tall bamboo-like grass that is mainly grown as a source of sugar.

Originally from New Guinea, it has been used since prehistoric times. It followed human migrations to India and the Mediterranean and was brought to the Americas by Columbus in 1493. Now grown all over the world in tropical and sub-tropical regions, it provides 70% of the world’s sugar.

It is easily grown from stem cuttings found in exotic grocery shops. The plant is not hardy but will grow quite fast and become very tall.

Description:

Sugar cane is a tall grass that looks like bamboo with internodes. The unbranched stems or culms grow up to 3-6 m high and 2-4.5 cm in diameter.

The leaves are green, 70-150 cm long and 4-6 cm wide with a thick midrib. They grow alternately on the stems. The leaf base encircles the stem.

The inflorescence is a plume like panicle of 20-60 cm long.

Use:

Mainly grown for sugar production, it is also used for production of alcohol (rum) and molasses.

Medicinal use ranges from skincare to treatment of constipation and coughs.

Bagasse, the fibrous residue, is used as fuel or for paper production.

Nomenclature:

Common names:

Purple Sugar cane, Cultivated Sugar cane, Noble Sugar Cane, Sugar Cane

Etymology:

Saccharum: derived from the Sanskrit Sakara (sugar)
Officinarum: derived from the Latin officina (workshop, laboratory)

Origin:

New Guinea

Habitat:

Hot humid tropics, in moist soils



Hardiness:

USDA zone 9-10

Saccharum officinarum

Saccharum officinarum

Care:

Soil:

Sandy loam to clay loam, moist and well drained

Exposure:

Sun

Water:

Keep the substrate moist but not soggy

Fertilizer:

Sugar cane is a demanding plant. Provide ample manure when planting in spring.

Propagation:

Seed, stem cuttings

Sowing instructions:

  • sow all year round
  • is a light germinator: sow the seeds at the surface of a light sowing mix and gently press down
  • keep moist but not wet
  • 25 °C
  • germination time: 3-4 weeks

Cutting instructions:

  • take a stem cutting with a least one node
  • place horizontally on moist potting soil
  • cover with soil
  • keep moist but not wet

Image sources

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