50. Saguerus Saccharifer, Blume.—The Gomuto Palm.
Sex. Syst. Monoecia, Polyandria.
Synonymes.—Palma Indica vinaria secunda, Saguerus, sive Gomutus Gomuto, Rumph. Amb. i. p. 57, t. 13; Anau, Marsden, Hist. Sum. p. 88, 3d ed.; Saguerus Rumphii, Roxb. Fl. Ind. iii. 626; Arenga saccharifera, Mart. Gen. et Sp. Palm, p. 191, tab. 108.
Botany. Gen. Char.—Flowers monoecious by abortion, on separate spadices, sessile, the female ones between two males. Spadices simply branched. Spathes many incomplete. Calyx 3-cleft, with imbricated leaflets. Corolla 3-petalous, with valvate sestivation. MALES: Stamina indefinite: filaments filiform: anthers linear, cuspidate. FEMALES: Ovary trilocular, with the Ovule affixed at the bottom of the internal angle. Stigmata 3, acute, connivent. Berry 3- or, by abortion, 2-seeded. Albumen uniform. Embryo dorsal. (Blume.)
Sp. Char.—Petioles unarmed. Segments of the fronds linear-lanceolate, at the base 1- or sub-2-auriculate, beneath whitish. Branches of the spadices elongated, fastigiate, pendulous. Berry turbinate-globose. (Blume.)—From 20 to 25 feet high: readily distinguished by its rude and wild aspect.
Hab.—Very common in the islands of the Indian Archipelago, the Moluccas, and the Philippines.
A saccharine juice called nera or toddy is obtained in large quantities by wounding the spadices and receiving the liquor in earthenware pots or bamboos closely fastened beneath. [Marsden's History of Sumatra, p. 88, 3d edit. 1811.] This juice yields by boiling a coarse dark kind of sugar (jaggary), and by fermentation an intoxicating beverage. Wine which is used by the Chinese residing in the Indian islands in the preparation of Batavian arrack. [Crawfurd's History of the Indian Archipelago, vol. i. p. 399, 1820.] When the trees are exhausted by the incessant draining of their juices, sago of good quality is obtained from the trunk—as much as 150 to 200 lbs. weight from a single tree. [Blume, Rumphia, vol. ii. p. 126.]
The flesh of the fruit is acrid, and affords a juice which when applied to the skin occasions great pain and inflammation. The inhabitants of the Moluccas were in the practice of using in their wars, in the defence of posts, a liquor afforded by the maceration of the fruit, which the Dutch denominated hell water (aqua infernalis). [Crawfurd, op. cit.]