Plants of the Australasian Realm


Number of times mentioned: 10
Latin name: Saccharum officinarum
Region of origin: Malaysia, New Guinea, Polynesia

Hermann Adolph Köhler, Saccharum officinarum, 1887, Coloured plate, 1887, Medizinal-Pflanzen, Vol. 2, http://powo.science.kew.org/taxon/urn:lsid:ipni.org:names:419977-1.


"‘How you know to come to me now?’ asked Mother Ethel, pushing herself up from the bench facing the shrine in the yard, with the calabash tree and the pomegranate tree with the iron for Ogun and the conch shell for Yemanja and the sugarcane plant, for Damballah, the snake." (14)

"[...] Cunaripo, the town: with the police station and the Catholic church and the Warden's office its major buildings, with a Scale House for weighing canes and an Ice Box for selling ice and a Buying House where farmers from surrounding estates brought bags of polished cocoa beans and dried coffee to be weighed and exchanged for money and then to be shipped by rail to Port-of-Spain, the port where they all led, the train lines and the ribbons of road, streaming through forest, along sea coasts, joining plantation to plantation, coconuts and cocoa and cane, until they reached the port from which ships sailed out to England, out into the world, the world, already to him more than a place, a mission, a Sacred Order that brought him into meaning, into Life." (16)

"And he waited, preparing for his departure into that other world, the world, watching the seasons change and the deluge of rain turn the cracked savannah into pools of mud; and he continued to call out spelling and work sums with the children; and sometimes, feeling himself a stranger far from home, feeling surrounded by the cocoa and the canes [...]" (19)

"He went into Woodford Square, walking through the grandest guard of honour ever assembled for anybody in this country, the line stretching from the Singer entrance on Frederick Street right up to the podium, the whole country gathered there, the place looking and smelling like Trinidad and Tobago, market women in Shouters' headdress, smelling of red lavender and rosewater, vendors of paratha roti in orhnis, about them the scent of fresh coconut oil and burnt geera, clapping hands and shaking tambourines; stevedores with flags in their huge fists and towels draped over their formidable shoulders, nurses in grey stockings and starched aproned uniforms, vagrants in their Sunday best, soapbox politicians with their fingers on their lips, choirs of schoolchildren, oyster vendors and sugarcane workers, and a contingent of supporters from the opposition parties." (57)

"Blood is oozing from the bleeding sugar." (62)

"The plantation run down now the cocoa gone, the sugar ain't have no price." (69)

"They show The West Indies, Barbados and Jamaica where they land the cargo of these captive people and collect the cargo of sugar and cotton and spices to take back to Europe for sale." (75)

"Rum, glorious rum, / When I call you, you bound to come, / You was made from Caroni cane, extracted in Port-of-Spain" (98)

"The cocoa and the sugar prices went tumbling down, labour disappeared." (100)

Botanical reference: N. Parthasarathy, “Origin of Noble Sugar-Canes (Saccharum Officinarum.),” Nature 161, no. 4094 (April 1, 1948): 608–608, https://doi.org/10.1038/161608a0.

Image credits:

Tomás Sánchez, Autorretrato En Tarde Rosa, 1994, Acrylic on linen, 1994,

Tomás Sánchez, Orilla y Cielo Gris, 1995, Acrylic on canvas, 1995,

Text edition:

Earl Lovelace, Salt (New York, 1996),