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Pandanus tectorius Parkinson ex Du Roi 1774
pronounced: pan-DAY-nuss teck-TAW-ree-uss
(Pandanaceae — the Pandanus family)
common name: Coastal Screw-Pine
Tectorius is Latin for ‘of a roof’, and I presume this refers to the canopy of this tree. The specimen shown is the magnificent female tree growing in Picnic Bay Mall, at the jetty end. This one may have been planted there, as it is unusually distanced from the nearest male tree. Some males are to be found in the clump of Pandanus tectorius growing on the other side of the nearby creek. To my mind, this species seems to throw out more spectacular prop roots than the others.
On the subject of planting screw-pines, propagation can be carried out from seed collected from the ripe fruits, no pre-treatment being needed before sowing. It is advisable to plant at least three trees, to be reasonably sure that one will be a male. Large stem cuttings can also be used for propagation, by selecting stems with some aerial roots attached. If sown in gardens, these trees need plenty of space. The gardener must also be prepared to clean up the mess they make! As well as the dropped leaves, these trees seed very easily, especially in watered areas kept free of the leaves; so young screw-pines will appear by the hundreds, and need to be removed or killed. It can take up to 20 years for a female tree to produce fruit.
The male flowers are only 2 – 3 cm long and fragrant, but are surrounded by narrow white bracts.
On many of the Pacific Islands, the pandanus is used for handicraft. The women collect the leaves from trees in the wild. Only the young leaves are cut, so that the trees will regenerate. They are sliced in fine strips and sorted for further processing. Later, the weavers produce basic pandanus mats of standard sizes, e.g. for table place-mats, or roll the leaves into ropes for other designs. The colouring is done by soaking the strips, or the finished mats, in drums of water-based colours. In ancient times, the leaves were used for house-thatching and for women’s grass skirts. I hope the sharp saw-toothed edges were removed first when used for the latter!
The caterpillars of the Banana Scab Moth Nacoleia octasema attack young Pandanus fruit.
Photographs taken 2008, Picnic Bay
Page last updated 10th January 2017