Sugarcane (Saccharum officinarum)—Ray Manley/Shostal Associates

Giant, thick, perennial grass belonging to the genus Saccharum (family Poaceae), cultivated in tropical and subtropical regions worldwide for its sweet sap, a major source of sugar and molasses. The plant grows in clumps of solid stalks with regularly spaced nodes or joints, each with a bud that can be planted for commercial asexual propagation. Graceful, sword-shaped leaves, similar to those of the corn plant, fold in a sheath around the stem. Mature canes may be 10–20 ft (3–6 m) tall and 1–3 in. (2.5–7.5 cm) in diameter. Molasses, the syrup remaining after sugar is crystallized out of the juice, is used in cooking, in making rum, and as feed for farm animals. Residual cane fibre (bagasse) is burned as fuel or used as filler for paper and particleboard.

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
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