Thank you to my colleague, Eric La Fountaine, for providing both today’s photograph and write-up. Eric writes:
Pandanus tectorius is a very common sight on the Hawaiian islands. It is found in tropical Asia, Australia and on many Pacific Islands. It is generally thought to be indigenous to Hawaii, but additional varieties may have been brought by Polynesian explorers. It is sometimes given the amusing moniker, tourist pineapple, and I must admit I heard the words, “oh look–pineapples“, from tourists looking at the plant. The background of the photo shows the dramatic topography of the Nā Pali Coast. By my estimation, the verdant peaks in this view rise around 250 metres (800 ft).
The shrubs or small trees are variable, generally growing 4-14 metres (13-46 ft) tall with similar dimensions of canopy spread. Pandanus tectorius is dioecious, i.e., male and female flowers appear on separate plants. The single trunk of the plant reaches a height of around 4 metres before branching. It is supported by a dense skirt of prop roots at its base. Long strap-like leaves are spirally arranged. As the plant grows in height, lower leaves fall off. Due to the spiral arrangement of the leaves, the now-bare trunk is left with a twisted appearance, leading to another common name, screwpine.
Pandanus tectorius is one of the most important plant resources to Pacific Island peoples. The species is used extensively for weaving, food and medicine, craft making, ornament, dye and other purposes. Both the seeds and fruit are eaten. Many varieties of the plant have been selected to best serve these cultural needs. Some provide better tasting fruit, others are more suitable for weaving.
Two pages of photos showing many aspects of the tree can be seen on Plants of Hawaii. To learn more, excellent articles describe the species at the Culture Sheet and at Pacific Island Agroforestry (PDF 1.82MB).