Pandanus tectorius

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).

Pandanus tectorius

18 responses to “Pandanus tectorius”

  1. Don Fenton

    Re the “Oh look, pineapples!” story, I once saw an old sugar-cane farmer telling tourists “Did you see the flowers on the cane when you were coming down the road? [ They were sorghum flowers.] That’s what they7 make the iceing-sugar from!”

  2. frances o'halloran

    gorgeous photo~ would like to know more about the medicinal properties of this plant/fruit. . . .

  3. Bonnie

    The first thing to draw my attention was the leaves. Remind me of a huge spider. 🙂 The background fascinating.

  4. Laura Henderson

    Great pic Uncle Eric. It’s especially nice to see beautiful green tropical photos right now with a “big snow” headed my way! (Ohio)

  5. Nancy

    Edible?? How is it used? I live in south Florida, where this small tree makes a great specimen, but I never knew it produced edible fruit.

  6. Melissa

    I said the same thing as every other tourist when I saw this one, “Oh, look! Pineapples!” Thanks muchly, as now I am not EVERY other tourist and understand this plant WAY better. (Still looks like the stylized pineapples that were designed by an Italian artist who had never seen a pineapple — and which became the permanent look of the Pineapple of Hospitality in Charleston, S.C.)

  7. Alina

    Such a wonderful picture!
    We have here many specimens of Pandanaceae studied by Dr. Stone, a former curator of Botany here at the Academy.
    If anyone is interested a little more about the family, we have this website:
    http://ph.acnatsci.org/collections/pandanaceae/
    Cheers,
    Alina.

  8. Meg Bernstein

    Thanks Alina for the link. I love the baskets.

  9. Anne

    As soon as I saw this photo, I showed it to my husband who also though he instantly recognized the shot. We were in Hawaii a few years ago and visited the park at Iao Valley. We both thought that was “The Needle” at first. I even remember that as the first place I saw the Pandanus. I heard many people mention pineapples but although I knew they weren’t pineapples, I didn’t know what they actually were. Thanks so much for posting this to remind me of warmer days!

  10. Wendy Cutler

    The location does look a lot like the Iao mountain, but I recognized my Kauai stomping ground right away, having photographed those peaks quite excessively. I never took that good a photo, though. David Tarrant, leading a tour in 1980, told us right away about tourist pineapples, so we never made that mistake (I might have even known at the time that pineapples don’t grow on trees). You quite commonly see the little “paintbrush” husks on the ground. I had no idea the fruits were edible.

    There are nice photos of the Laysan albatross on the second page of the Plants of Hawaii site. I’ve seen them at the park at the lighthouse.

  11. June

    In Sri Lanka, we use a type of pandanus leaf to flavor curries and dal along with curry leaves. We cut them down so much that it never gets to the flowering stage!

  12. elizabeth a airhart

    i live in florida on the central gulf coast
    the freezeing weather in january did some
    damage to the screw pines in time they be
    will fine one hopes
    the university of arkansas division of
    agriculure has the storey of the wilkes expedition his climb up the mountain to the pines
    1838 1842 really good reading
    great photo and fine wriite up thank you

  13. Barry

    According to Gernot Katzer’s spice pages, the leaves of P. amarylifolius is the type used for its leaves. He writes that the scent is a bit hay-like, similar to Jasmine rice. The leaves are cut fresh and allowed to wilt a bit. He says that P. amarylifolius is the only type with scented leaves. http://www.uni-graz.at/~katzer/engl/Pand_ama.html

  14. Cloudy

    very interesting!
    …and how is the taste? (well, compared to a pineapple, that is 😉 )

  15. Victoria Lucido

    I have seen this plant in the Bahamas and found it very interesting. I did get a sample seed.
    I tried to grow it in this local without much luck. It mildewed before it died.
    VL

  16. Syamsudin

    Is it pineapples and pandan from the same family?

  17. Mayone Kinikini

    I would like to learn more about the medicinal uses of the Pandanus Tectorius…..any help anyone can offer will be appreciated! Thanks in advance…….mk

  18. Wendy Cutler

    Here’s an updated link for Alina’s comment, to more info about the Pandanaceae family:
    http://ph.ansp.org/collections/pandanaceae/.

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