Genus:
Saccharum L.

Saccharum officinarum L.

Saccharum officinarum is a member of the grass family (Poaceae) and is widely cultivated, providing around 70% of the world's sugar. Sugar cane yields the highest number of calories per unit area of cultivation of any plant.

[UNAL]

Bernal, R., G. Galeano, A. Rodríguez, H. Sarmiento y M. Gutiérrez. 2017. Nombres Comunes de las Plantas de Colombia. http://www.biovirtual.unal.edu.co/nombrescomunes/

Vernacular
canapoy, caña, caña amarilla, caña canapoy, caña criolla, caña de azúcar, caña de azúcar altacumbre, caña de azúcar amarilla, caña de azúcar amarilla rayuna, caña de azúcar americana, caña de azúcar azúcar, caña de azúcar azucarera, caña de azúcar bella, caña de azúcar blanca, caña de azúcar blanca momposeña, caña de azúcar blancar, caña de azúcar blandita, caña de azúcar bogotana, caña de azúcar burra, caña de azúcar calancana, caña de azúcar caleña, caña de azúcar california, caña de azúcar caña rial, caña de azúcar cañaboba, caña de azúcar cañabrava, caña de azúcar cañaeburro, caña de azúcar cañaemuerto, caña de azúcar cañaguadua, caña de azúcar carangalí, caña de azúcar carey, caña de azúcar caucana, caña de azúcar cecilia, caña de azúcar ceniza, caña de azúcar chilendenque, caña de azúcar chiquita, caña de azúcar chocoana, caña de azúcar ciencañas, caña de azúcar ciento catorce, caña de azúcar ciento ocho, caña de azúcar cinta, caña de azúcar colombiana, caña de azúcar colorada, caña de azúcar común, caña de azúcar conalisa, caña de azúcar coneja, caña de azúcar congola, caña de azúcar corocito, caña de azúcar costarriqueña, caña de azúcar criolla, caña de azúcar criolla común, caña de azúcar cristalina, caña de azúcar cuarenta y ocho, caña de azúcar cubana, caña de azúcar de azúcar, caña de azúcar de Castilla, caña de azúcar española, caña de azúcar esperma, caña de azúcar estameña, caña de azúcar extranjera, caña de azúcar fafardo, caña de azúcar fina, caña de azúcar fístol, caña de azúcar forrajera, caña de azúcar galemba, caña de azúcar gorda, caña de azúcar goya, caña de azúcar guadua, caña de azúcar guafa, caña de azúcar guagua, caña de azúcar guahíba, caña de azúcar guartinaja, caña de azúcar guayanés, caña de azúcar güevoesuire, caña de azúcar guinea, caña de azúcar habanera, caña de azúcar hache, caña de azúcar hortalí, caña de azúcar hortaliza, caña de azúcar ibaguereña, caña de azúcar india, caña de azúcar injerta, caña de azúcar interiorana, caña de azúcar italiana, caña de azúcar java, caña de azúcar jotapecú, caña de azúcar lanuda, caña de azúcar lata, caña de azúcar linda, caña de azúcar lisa, caña de azúcar listada, caña de azúcar macana, caña de azúcar mamona, caña de azúcar mandarina, caña de azúcar manuelita, caña de azúcar marangola, caña de azúcar maravilla, caña de azúcar marteña, caña de azúcar martinica, caña de azúcar matey, caña de azúcar matías, caña de azúcar merara, caña de azúcar mestiza, caña de azúcar minorca, caña de azúcar mojosa, caña de azúcar morada, caña de azúcar morada claro, caña de azúcar morada de azúcar, caña de azúcar morada oscura, caña de azúcar murloepollo, caña de azúcar nacional, caña de azúcar negra, caña de azúcar noventa y dos, caña de azúcar noventa y nueve, caña de azúcar oroba, caña de azúcar paipa, caña de azúcar pajarita, caña de azúcar palmira, caña de azúcar palmireña, caña de azúcar pangola, caña de azúcar parangola, caña de azúcar patevaca, caña de azúcar peache, caña de azúcar pelona, caña de azúcar peojota, caña de azúcar pepina, caña de azúcar perolera, caña de azúcar pielroja, caña de azúcar piguala, caña de azúcar pijota, caña de azúcar piojota, caña de azúcar pirulera, caña de azúcar popa, caña de azúcar prieta, caña de azúcar puertorrico, caña de azúcar quiebratrapiche, caña de azúcar raboeperdíz, caña de azúcar rabón, caña de azúcar rayada, caña de azúcar rayona, caña de azúcar reina, caña de azúcar ricarda, caña de azúcar rucia, caña de azúcar samaria, caña de azúcar sangrelinda, caña de azúcar sangretoro, caña de azúcar santacruz, caña de azúcar santamarteña, caña de azúcar sincerín, caña de azúcar sincerina, caña de azúcar siria, caña de azúcar solera, caña de azúcar tahití, caña de azúcar tresletras, caña de azúcar triple seis, caña de azúcar unión, caña de azúcar uva, caña de azúcar veintiocho catorce, caña de azúcar veintisiete catorce, caña de azúcar veleña, caña de azúcar ventiocho, caña de azúcar vinotinto, caña de azúcar zamba, caña de azúcar zamba blanca, caña de azúcar zanahoria, caña de azúcar zapatoca, caña de Batavia, caña de Otaití, caña de Singapur, caña dulce, caña forrajera, caña japonesa, caña morada, caña ortalí, caña Otaití, caña Puerto Rico, caña rayada, caña Singapur, caña yemaehuevo, cañaduz, chanzo, ortalí, puerto rico, yemaehuevo

[KSP]

Kew Species Profiles

General Description

Sugar is extracted from the sweet, juicy stems of sugar cane, and is used worldwide as a sweetener, preservative and in the cosmetics industry.

Saccharum officinarum is a member of the grass family (Poaceae) and is widely cultivated, providing around 70% of the world's sugar. Sugar cane yields the highest number of calories per unit area of cultivation of any plant.

Sugar cane probably originated in New Guinea, and was taken to the Americas by the explorer Christopher Columbus on his second expedition there in 1493. Sugar cane is now grown in more than 70 countries, mainly in the tropics, but also in some sub-tropical areas. India and Brazil produce about half the world's cane sugar.

The word 'sugar' is thought to derive from the ancient Sanskrit 'sharkara'.

Species Profile
Geography and distribution

Sugar cane is grown in southwestern Europe, Africa, temperate Asia, tropical Asia, Australia, the Pacific, southeastern USA, Mexico, and South America. It has been cultivated in New Guinea since about 6000 BC, and, from about 1000 BC, it was gradually spread along human migration routes to Asia and the Indian subcontinent. 

Description

Overview: A tall grass, which looks rather like a bamboo cane, and grows 3-6 m high with culms (stems) 20-45 mm in diameter.

The thicker-stemmed forms are commonly known as 'thick' or 'noble' canes because of their tall, handsome, colourful stems.

Leaves: Broad (up to 6 cm wide), 70-150 cm long, borne alternately on the stem, with leaf base encircling the stem.

Fruits: An oblong caryopsis (small, dry, one-seeded fruit), 1.5 mm long.

Saccharum officinarum can be recognised by its hairless or short-haired panicle axis, and leaf-blades up to 6 cm wide.

Other species of Saccharum

Besides Saccharum officinarum , four other species in the genus Saccharum have been used for sugar production:

S. barberi , known as 'Indian cane' or 'thin' cane S. robustum S. sinense , known as 'Chinese cane' S. spontaneum , which is known as 'wild cane' and used for hybridisation purposes Uses Early uses - chewing

Sugar cane was originally grown in southeastern Asia and the Pacific for the sole purpose of chewing. The rind was removed and the internal tissues sucked or chewed. The production of sugar by boiling cane juice first took place in India, most likely during the first millennium BC.

Food and drink

Sugar is now a highly valued food and sweetener and also serves as an edible preservative. Raw and refined sugars are produced by heating, removing impurities and crystallising sugar cane juice, which mainly consists of sucrose.

Raw and refined sugars are exported all over the world for use in sweet and savoury dishes, processed foods and drinks and for preserving fruits and meat. They are also compressed into sugar cubes and made into syrup. White sugar can be further processed (ground into a fine powder) into icing sugar, which is used in desserts, baking and confectionery.

In India, the young shoots of sugar cane are sometimes steamed and roasted as a vegetable.

Medicinal uses

Sugar cane has also been used medicinally. In southern Asia it has been used to treat a wide variety of health complaints from constipation to coughs, and has been used externally to treat skin problems. Both the roots and stems are used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat skin and urinary tract infections, as well as for bronchitis, heart conditions, loss of milk production, cough, anaemia, and constipation. Some texts advise its use for jaundice and low blood pressure.

Sugar paste has been widely used to pack wounds and aid healing.

Hair removal

Sugar is used for hair removal, in a practice that is thought to date back to the ancient Egyptians. A warm paste of sugar, water and lemon juice is applied to the skin. Strips of cloth are then pressed over the paste and torn off quickly, taking the hair with them. Sugar is also used in soap-making and as an abrasive scrub to exfoliate skin.

Molasses and alcohol production 

A by-product of sugar refining is molasses, which is a dark, syrupy product used in the preparation of edible syrups and for numerous industrial products. It is used for animal feed, fertilizers, and even for adding to tobacco for hookah pipes and some cigarettes. Molasses, along with cane juice and other by-products of sugar production, can be fermented and then distilled, to produce rum.

Pure alcohol (ethanol) can also be produced from molasses, and is used in the preparation of vinegar, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, cleaning preparations, solvents, and coatings. Ethanol produced in this way (bioethanol) is widely used in Brazil and the USA as a motor fuel, as part of a movement to use sustainable alternatives to petrol. Other products produced from molasses include butanol and lactic acid (solvents), citric acid (used in foods and drinks), and glycerol.

By-products of sugar cane processing

The fibrous cane residue left after processing is known as bagasse and is used as fuel to generate energy for the sugar manufacturing process. It also serves as a fibre for making paper. The fibre is separated from the pith, which itself can be used as an animal feed. Filter cake, consisting of cane juice, impurities and lime, is used as a soil improver.

Cultivation

Sugar cane is successfully propagated in Kew's Tropical Nursery using cuttings taken from the cane and then laid flat. The plants require large pots due to their extensive root system.

Sugar cane benefits from regular feeding and a large volume of compost. A standard Kew mix containing 10% loam, 45% coir and 45% Silvafibre with added fertiliser is used, and is kept moist.

The glasshouse zone in which sugar cane is grown has a minimum temperature of 14˚C and high light intensity. Under good light conditions the plants grow strongly and do not require staking.

Sugar cane can suffer from red spider mite infestations, which can cause considerable damage to leaves.

Sugar cane at Kew

Saccharum officinarum is on display in Kew's Palm House, where many tropical economic plants can be seen.

Pressed and dried specimens of sugar cane are held in Kew's Herbarium, where they are available to researchers by appointment. Details of one of these specimens can be seen online in Kew's Herbarium Catalogue.

Kew's Economic Botany Collection is home to over 30 specimens of sugar cane and related products. These include sugar, syrup, wax, molasses and even toilet paper made from S. officinarum .

Ecology
Hot humid tropics, in moist soils.
Conservation
Not evaluated according to IUCN Red List criteria; widespread in cultivation.
Hazards

Sugar consumption can be a factor in tooth decay and obesity.

[GB]
Morphology General Habit
Perennial; caespitose. Rhizomes absent. Culms erect; robust; 300-600 cm long; 20-45 mm diam. Culm-internodes solid; yellow, or mid-green, or purple; distally pruinose (below nodes). Leaf-sheaths loose. Ligule a ciliolate membrane. Leaf-blades linear, or lanceolate; 70-150 cm long; 30-60 mm wide; glaucous. Leaf-blade midrib conspicuous. Leaf-blade surface scaberulous; rough adaxially. Leaf-blade margins scaberulous. Leaf-blade apex acuminate.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Inflorescences
Inflorescence a panicle with branches tipped by a raceme. Peduncle glabrous, or pubescent above. Panicle open; pyramidal; dense; 40-60 cm long. Primary panicle branches whorled at most nodes; 5-10 cm long. Panicle axis glabrous, or puberulous. Panicle branches glabrous, or puberulous; bearded in axils. Racemes 5-10 cm long. Rhachis fragile at the nodes; subterete; glabrous on margins, or ciliate on margins. Rhachis internodes filiform; 4-7 mm long. Spikelets in pairs. Fertile spikelets sessile and pedicelled; 2 in the cluster; subequal. Pedicels filiform; glabrous, or ciliate.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Inflorescences Spikelets
Spikelets comprising 1 basal sterile florets; 1 fertile florets; without rhachilla extension. Spikelets lanceolate; dorsally compressed; 3.5-4 mm long; falling entire; deciduous from the base, or with accessory branch structures. Spikelet callus bearded; base truncate. Spikelet callus hairs white; 7-12 mm long; 2-3 length of spikelet.
Fertile
Spikelets comprising 1 basal sterile florets; 1 fertile florets; without rhachilla extension. Spikelets lanceolate; dorsally compressed; 3.5-4 mm long; falling entire; deciduous from the base, or with accessory branch structures. Spikelet callus bearded; base truncate. Spikelet callus hairs white; 7-12 mm long; 2-3 length of spikelet.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Inflorescences Bracts Glume
Glumes similar; firmer than fertile lemma. Lower glume lanceolate; 1 length of spikelet; membranous; much thinner above; 2-keeled; 4 -veined. Lower glume surface flat. Lower glume apex acute. Upper glume lanceolate; 1 length of spikelet; membranous; much thinner above; without keels; 3 -veined. Upper glume margins eciliate, or ciliolate. Upper glume apex acute.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Florets
Basal sterile florets barren; without significant palea. Lemma of lower sterile floret lanceolate; 1 length of spikelet; hyaline; 0 -veined; without midvein; without lateral veins; ciliate on margins; acute. Fertile lemma present, or absent; linear; 0-1 mm long; hyaline; 0 -veined. Palea absent or minute.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers
Lodicules 2; cuneate; glabrous. Anthers 3; 1.5 mm long.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Fruits
Caryopsis with adherent pericarp; oblong; isodiametric; 1.5 mm long. Embryo 0.15 length of caryopsis.
Distribution
Europe: southwestern. Africa: north, Macaronesia, west tropical, west-central tropical, northeast tropical, east tropical, southern tropical, south, and western Indian ocean. Asia-temperate: western Asia, Arabia, China, and eastern Asia. Asia-tropical: India, Indo-China, Malesia, and Papuasia. Australasia: Australia. Pacific: southwestern, south-central, northwestern, and north-central. North America: southeast USA and Mexico. South America: Mesoamericana, Caribbean, northern South America, western South America, Brazil, and southern South America.
Reference
Andropogoneae. Whalen 2003.

[FWTA]

Gramineae, W. D. Clayton. Flora of West Tropical Africa 3:2. 1972

Morphology General Habit
Culms up to 6 m. high.

[UPFC]
Distribution
Biogeografic region: Amazonia, Andean, Guiana Shield, Caribbean, Orinoquia, Pacific. Elevation range: 0–2500 m a.s.l. Cultivated in Colombia. Naturalised in Colombia. Colombian departments: Amazonas, Antioquia, Arauca, Atlántico, Bolívar, Boyacá, Caldas, Caquetá, Casanare, Cauca, Cesar, Chocó, Córdoba, Cundinamarca, Guainía, Guaviare, Huila, La Guajira, Magdalena, Meta, Nariño, Norte de Santander, Putumayo, Quindío, Risaralda, San Andrés y Providencia, Santander, Sucre, Tolima, Valle del Cauca, Vaupés, Vichada.
Habit
Herb.
Ecology
Habitat according IUCN Habitats Classification: forest and woodland, shrubland, artificial - terrestrial.

[UPB]

The Useful Plants of Boyacá project

Ecology
Alt. 0 - 2500 m.
Distribution
Cultivated in Colombia.
Morphology General Habit
Herb.
Conservation
Not Evaluated.

[CPLC]

Bernal, R., Gradstein, S.R. & Celis, M. (eds.). 2015. Catálogo de plantas y líquenes de Colombia. Instituto de Ciencias Naturales, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogotá. http://catalogoplantasdecolombia.unal.edu.co

Distribution
Cultivada en Colombia; Alt. 0 - 2500 m.; Amazonia, Andes, Guayana y Serranía de La Macarena, Islas Caribeñas, Llanura del Caribe, Orinoquia, Pacífico, Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Valle del Cauca, Valle del Magdalena.
Morphology General Habit
Hierba

[KSP]
Use
Food and drink, medicine, alcohol production, biofuel, hair removal.

[UPFC]
Use Animal Food
Used as animal food.
Use Environmental
Environmental uses.
Use Fuel
Used for fuels.
Use Gene Sources
Used as gene sources.
Use Food
Used for food.
Use Invertebrate Food
Used as invertebrate food.
Use Materials
Used as material.
Use Medicines
Medical uses.
Use Social
Social uses.

[UPB]
Use Gene Sources
Crop wild relatives which may possess beneficial traits of value in breeding programmes (State of the World's Plants 2016).
Use Materials Fibres
Used for basketry (Linares et al. 2008).
Use Food
Food (Granados-Tochoy et al. 2007).
Use Materials Other Chemicals
Leaves - The leaves are used to make hats (Linares 1994).
Use Materials Unspecified Materials Chemicals
Materials (State of the World's Plants 2016).
Use Medicines
Medicinal (Instituto Humboldt 2014).
Use Medicines Unspecified Medicinal Disorders
Medicinal (State of the World's Plants 2016, Instituto Humboldt 2014).

Native to:

New Guinea

Introduced into:

Alabama, Aldabra, Algeria, Andaman Is., Angola, Assam, Bahamas, Bangladesh, Belize, Benin, Bermuda, Bismarck Archipelago, Borneo, Brazil North, Brazil Northeast, Brazil South, Brazil Southeast, Brazil West-Central, Burkina, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canary Is., Caroline Is., Cayman Is., Central African Repu, Chad, China South-Central, China Southeast, Colombia, Comoros, Congo, Cook Is., Costa Rica, Cuba, Cyprus, Dominican Republic, East Himalaya, Easter Is., Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Fiji, Florida, Galápagos, Gambia, Gilbert Is., Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Gulf of Guinea Is., Hainan, Haiti, Hawaii, Honduras, India, Iraq, Ivory Coast, Jamaica, Jawa, Korea, Laos, Lebanon-Syria, Leeward Is., Lesser Sunda Is., Line Is., Louisiana, Madagascar, Malaya, Maldives, Marianas, Marquesas, Marshall Is., Mauritius, Mexico Central, Mexico Northwest, Mexico Southeast, Mexico Southwest, Mississippi, Morocco, Myanmar, Nansei-shoto, Nauru, New Caledonia, New Zealand North, Nicaragua, Nicobar Is., Niue, Oman, Panamá, Philippines, Pitcairn Is., Puerto Rico, Rodrigues, Rwanda, Réunion, Samoa, Santa Cruz Is., Senegal, Seychelles, Society Is., Solomon Is., Spain, Sri Lanka, Sulawesi, Sumatera, Taiwan, Tanzania, Texas, Thailand, Tibet, Togo, Tonga, Trinidad-Tobago, Tuamotu, Tubuai Is., Turkey, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Venezuelan Antilles, Vietnam, West Himalaya, Windward Is., Yemen, Zaïre

English
Sugar cane
Spanish
Caña de azúcar, caña costeña.

Saccharum officinarum L. appears in other Kew resources:

Date Reference Identified As Barcode Type Status Has image?
Roxburgh, W. [s.n.], India K000943385 Unknown type material Yes
Hinton, G.B. [2993], México State K000476351 No
Glaziou, A. [14400], Brazil K001106148 Yes
Burchell [7289], Brazil K001106149 Yes

First published in Sp. Pl.: 54 (1753)

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  • Newman, M., Ketphanh, S., Svengsuksa, B., Thomas, P., Sengdala, K., Lamxay, V. & Armstrong, K. (2007). A checklist of the vascular plants of Lao PDR: 1-394. Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh.
  • Noltie, H.J. (2000). Flora of Bhutan 3(2): 457-883. Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh.
  • Onana, J.M. (2011). The vascular plants of Cameroon a taxonomic checklist with IUCN assessments: 1-195. National herbarium of Cameroon, Yaoundé.
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  • Sita, P. & Moutsambote, J.-M. (2005). Catalogue des plantes vasculaires du Congo, ed. sept. 2005: 1-158. ORSTOM, Centre de Brazzaville.
  • Stevens, W.D., Ulloa U., C., Pool, A. & Montiel, O.M. (2001). Flora de Nicaragua Monographs in Systematic Botany from the Missouri Botanical Garden 85: i-xlii, 1-2666. Missouri Botanical Garden.
  • Thaman, R.R., Fosberg, F.R., Manner, H.I. & Hassall, D.C. (1994). The Flora of Nauru Atoll Research Bulletin 392: 1-223.
  • Troupin, G. (ed.) (1988). Flora du Rwanda 4: I-X, 1-651. Musee Royal de l'Afrique Centrale.
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Useful Plants and Fungi of Colombia

  • Bernal, R., Gradstein, S.R., & Celis, M. (eds.). (2020). Catálogo de Plantas y Líquenes de Colombia. v1.1. Universidad Nacional de Colombia. Dataset/Checklist. https://doi.org/10.15472/7avdhn
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  • Art and Illustrations in Digifolia

    Digital Image © Board of Trustees, RBG Kew

  • Catálogo de Plantas y Líquenes de Colombia

    http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0

  • Colombian resources for Plants made Accessible

    ColPlantA 2021. Published on the Internet at http://colplanta.org
    http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

  • Flora of West Tropical Africa

    Flora of West Tropical Africa
    http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0

  • GrassBase - The Online World Grass Flora

    http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0

  • Herbarium Catalogue Specimens

    Digital Image © Board of Trustees, RBG Kew http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

  • Kew Backbone Distributions

    The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2022. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/
    © Copyright 2017 World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

  • Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone

    The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2022. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/
    © Copyright 2017 International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

  • Kew Science Photographs

    Copyright applied to individual images

  • Kew Species Profiles

    Kew Species Profiles
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  • Universidad Nacional de Colombia

    ColPlantA database
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  • Useful Plants and Fungi of Colombia

    http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0

  • Useful Plants of Boyacá Project

    ColPlantA database
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