Pandanus cookii

Cook's screw pine


Pandanus cookii

Martelli 1914

pronounced: pan-DAY-nuss COOL-ee-eye

(Pandanaceae — the pandanus family)

synonym — Pandanus whitei

Martelli 1924

pronounced: oan-DAY-nuss WHY-ty

common names: Cook's screw pine

native 4The word pandanus comes from the Malay word pandan or pandang, meaning conspicuous. The common name of ‘screw-pine’ is obvious if you look at some (but not all) of the trunks.

This species of pandanus, probably the most common on Magnetic Island, grows mainly on the rocky hill slopes rather than by lagoons or the seashore. The ‘Cook’ appellation must surely be in honour of Captain James Cook. The synonym of Pandanus whiteii was in honour of Cyril Tenison White, who was Government Botanist of Queensland from 1918–1950. There has been much confusion over this species, and some authorities consider that Pandanus cookii and Pandanus whitei are different species. They are so given in The Plant List of Kew Gardens. Another puzzle is that both species (if, indeed, they are separate) were named by the same botanist, Niccolo Martelli. To add to the confusion, the species found on Magnetic Island hybridizes easily with other species, especially with Pandanus solms-laubachii, which is also found here. What is supposed to differentiate P. cookii and P. whitei is proving difficult to track down.

Pandanus is native to parts of Africa, Asia and Australia. In Australia, it is found all along the Queensland coast. It is not a pine, but a tropical tree related to the palms. All trees of this family are dioecious, characterized by reduced, unisexual flowers borne in tight spikes or heads and by ovules with fleshy endosperm. They flower throughout the year. Many of the trees have prominent prop roots, which help to support the trees in sandy soil or on steep slopes. All of our pandanus have similar leaves, anything up to about 150 cm long, with saw-like margins, and need careful handling to avoid cutting oneself. They are spirally arranged on the stems or on the trunk.

The fruits resemble a large pineapple, up to about 25 cm across, and consist of many woody segments. These heavy heads, green while immature, but ripening to orange, hang from very stout branches and can remain on the tree for over a year. When the fruits become ripe, the individual nuts fall to the ground, adding to the mess of fallen leaves on the forest floor. On the ground, the nuts often look as if they have been chewed at the ends.

Especially with Pandanus cookii, there is a great variation in the trunks of the trees. Some are completely smooth without prop roots; some are smooth with prop roots; some have the screw-like appearance, caused by distinctive leaf scars, and may be with or without props. There is a great deal of work still to be done on the growth habits and identification of the pandanus genus in general, and of Pandanus cookii in particular.

Pandanus cookii is widespread through the tropical areas of north-eastern Queensland that receive a summer drenching followed by a cool, dry winter (between about 1200 and 2200 mm of rain annually).

The caterpillars of the Banana Scab Moth Nacoleia octasema attack young Pandanus fruit.


Photographs taken 2005-2010, Picnic Bay
Page last updated 15th February 2019