49. Sagus, Gartner.
Sex. Syst. Monoecia, Hexandria.
Gen. Char.—Flowers hermaphrodite or polygamo-monoecious on the same spadix. Spadix much branched, sheathed by many incomplete spathes. Amenta terete. Bract squamiform: bactlets very densely villose-bearded, connate like a cupule. Calyx 3-cleft. Corolla 3-partite. Stamens 6: filaments subulate, connate at the base; anthers affixed by the back. Ovary subtrilocular: stigmata 3, connate in a pyramid. Berry coated by reversed scales, 1-seeded. Albumen ruminated or uniform. Embryo dorsal. (Blume, Rumphia.)
1. Sagus laevis, Rumph. i. 76, tab. 86 and 126-127 (nomine S. Rumphii); Blume, Rumphia, vol. ii. p. 147; Jack, in Comp. Bot. Mag. i. 266; Sagus inermis, Roxb. Fl. Ind. iii. 623; Metroxylon laeve, Mart. Gen. et Sp. Plant. p. 215, 2; Kunth, Enum. Plant. iii. 214, 2. Metroxylon Sagus, Rottb. Rambia or Rambija of the Malays. The Unarmed Sago-Palm.
Stem tallish. Petioles, rachides, and spathes, unarmed. Fruit somewhat globose, and depressed on both sides. (Blume, in Rumphia, p. 147.)
Islands of the Indian Archipelago, Sumatra and Borneo, and the islands between them, growing spontaneously in low swampy lands.
A large quantity of granular sago is prepared from this species [Roxburgh (Flora Indica, vol. iii p. 623) says that from the pith of this tree "the granulated sago which we meet with in Europe is made."] in Sumatra especially, the peninsula of Malacca, and in Borneo. It is chiefly exported to Europe, Bengal, and China. The farina which is brought from Siak, on the northern coast of Sumatra, although inferior in whiteness to that of Borneo, is much sought after on account of its being less friable. It commonly fetches twice the price of the latter. [Blume, Rumphia, vol. ii. p. 148.]
The quantity of sago yielded by this palm is prodigious: Crawfurd [History of the Indian Archipelago, vol. i. p. 393.] says 500 or 600 lbs. is not an unusual produce for one tree: and Blume mentions 600 to 800 lbs. as the quantity obtained from a single tree when mature.
2. Sagus genuina, Rumph. (ex parte); Blume, Rumphia, vol. ii. p. 150; Sagus Rumphii, Roxb. Fl. Ind. iii. p. 623 (excel. synon.); Sagus spinosus, Roxb. ibid,; Metroxylon Rumphii, Mart. Gen. et Sp. Palm. p. 214, tab. 102 and 159.
Stem of middling height. Petioles, rachides, and spathes prickly; the prickles scattered or confluent. Fruit somewhat globose, depressed on both sides. (Blume.)
Islands of the Indian Archipelago. Abounds in the Malacca islands, especially where the nutmeg and clove grow naturally.
"This, the Malay Sago Palm, is the tree the pith of which is the staff of life to the inhabitants of the Moluccas." (Roxburgh.)
The stature of this tree seldom exceeds thirty feet. Before maturity, and previous to the formation of the fruit, the stem consists of a thin hard wall, about two inches thick, and of an enormous volume of tissue (commonly termed the medulla or pith), from which the farina, called sago, is obtained. As the fruit forms, the farinaceous medulla disappears; and when the tree attains full maturity, the stem is no more than a hollow shell. The utmost age of the tree does not exceed thirty years. [Crawfurd, History of the Indian Archipelago, vol. i. p. 384.]