Sugarcane (Saccharum officinarum)

Cluster of Sugarcane plantsSugarcane is a tropical, perennial grass that forms shoots at the base to produce unbranched stems with clearly marked segments.  The sugarcane plant grows up to 4.5 meters (15 feet) tall with stems 1-2 inches thick. It has broad, grass-like leaves that grow alternately from the stem and have a base which encircles it. Its green or reddish stems are swollen where the leaves grow and eventually grow into cane stalk, which constitutes 75% of the entire plant. Fluffy, hair-like flowers rise high above the plant on stems several inches long.  Cultivated sugarcane seldom flowers.  The fruit is a small, oblong, one-seeded fruit about 1.5 millimeter in length.

Where to Find: Look for sugarcane in fields. It grows only in the tropics (throughout the world). Because it is a crop, it is often found in large numbers.

Edible Parts: The stem is an excellent source of sugar and is very nutritious. Peel the outer portion off with your teeth and eat the sugarcane raw. You can also squeeze juice out of the sugarcane.

Sugarcane plants in a field

The base stem of a Sugarcane plant

Sugarcane stem showing straight, segmented stem

Flowering Sugarcane plants

Sugarcane flower

Color drawing of Sugarcane leaf, plant, and flowers

Drawing of Sugarcane plant

Drawing of Sugarcane plant