Ananas comosus



Ananas comosus

(L.) Merr. 1917

pronounced: AN-an-uss kom-OH-suss

(Bromeliaceae — the bromeliad family)

synonym — Ananas sativus

Schult. & Schult.f. 1830

pronounced: AN-an-uss sat-EYE-vuss

common name: pineapple

Ananas, the original name of the fruit, comes from the Tupi (Brazilian) word for pine, nanas; comosus is Latin for ‘hairy, tufted’, and in the synonym sativus is the Latin for ‘cultivated’.

Pineapple is the common name for this edible tropical plant and its fruit, native to Uruguay, Brazil and Paraguay. The plant can grow to over a metre tall, with 30 or more trough-shaped and pointed leaves anything up to a metre long, surrounding a thick stem. The pineapple is a good example of a multiple fruit: multiple, spirally arranged flowers along the axis each produce a fleshy fruit that presses against the fruit of the adjacent flowers and forms what looks like a single, fleshy fruit. The English word pineapple originally meant what is now called a pine cone, and was used for the fruit because of its similarity to a pine cone. The fruits of the pineapple are arranged in two interlocking spirals, 8 in one direction, 13 in the other: these are Fibonacci numbers.

The leaves of the cultivar Smooth Cayenne mostly lack spines, but those of most other cultivars have large spines along the leaf margins.

The pineapple spread from its original area through cultivation, and by the time of Christopher Columbus (1492) it grew throughout South and Central America, southern Mexico, and the Caribbean. Columbus may indeed have taken a pineapple back to Europe. The Spanish introduced it into the Philippines, Hawaii and Guam. The fruit was successfully cultivated in European hot-houses from the early 18th century onwards.

In commercial farming, flowering can be artificially induced and the early harvesting of the main crop can encourage the development of a second crop of smaller fruits. The top, removed before eating a pineapple, when planted will produce a new fruit-bearing plant. If left alone, the plant will eventually fall to one side due to the weight of the fruit, and a new plant will grow out of the top of the pineapple.

Some of my early memories of Magnetic Island are of the (what seemed to a child) vast fields of pineapples occupying most of Horseshoe Bay. In those pre-World War II days there was only a pack-horse trail connecting Horseshoe Bay with Arcadia, and Hayles ran a weekly boat round to Horseshoe Bay, both for holiday-makers and to collect the pineapples and mangoes grown there. When the connecting road was built after the war, the pineapples were trucked over to Arcadia for shipment. By the late 1950s, the high cost of getting the fruit to market, and, I suspect, the lowering of the fertility of the sandy soil due to monoculture, put paid to the industry.

This is a food plant for the larvae of the common armyworm Mythimna convecta.


Photographs taken in Picnic Bay 2005-2010
Page last updated 4th May 2019