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The Common Sago Palm
This species is thought to have originated in Papua New Guinea where, without doubt, it is one of the most commonly seen palms. It has however spread from there to many regions in south east Asia because of its tremendous usefulness. In the Sepik area particularly the palm is the provider of the staple food. A trunk of a suckering palm is felled just before the appearance of its terminal inflorescence. Its carbohydrate content is then at its highest level in order to produce seeds. The marrow of the stem is laboriously chopped out as finely as possible and its starch then washed out and separated from the cellulose. This gooey substance is cooked in a similar way to a pancake and eaten perhaps with freshly caught fish. The leaves of this palm are commonly used for thatching which, I am told, will provide at least 5 years of dry shelter. It has been said that "...where Metroxylon sagu grows, nobody ever goes hungry".
' (Text -
from Palms & Cycads No. 50, Jan-Mar 1996).
Rik Schuiling (Figure 1&2)