Common Name: Screw Pine, Beach Pandan.
Etymology: Pandan (proto-Malayic), tectorius (used for cover or plastering in Latin).
Origin: Sub-tropical to tropical east coast Australia, Indonesia and Pacific Islands to Hawaii.
Description: A medium sized branching pandan with prop roots and numerous cylindrical root-like extensions around the base of the trunk. This distinctive tree bears tufted crowns of sword-like leaves at the end of slender, crooked branches.
Foliage: 1.5m long and 5-10cm wide. Dull mid green to bluish green above, with a whitish bloom below, thick and leathery, sword like with long pointed tips and broad, fibrous bases partially sheathing the top of the trunk. The leaves are spirally arranged in rows, forming small, tufted crowns with erect to drooping tips. Deeply channeled above with prominent raised, smooth midrib below. The margins bear small, forward-pointing serrations.
Bark: Pale-grey, erect. Can grow up to 18m tall and 20cm diameter, although usually 3-6m tall. It is supported by prop roots that are firmly anchored to the ground. The trunk is smooth, ringed with pale wavy leaf scars and dotted with small nodules.
Flowers: Pandanus tectorius is a dioecious species. Male flowers consist of stamens closely packed in white, terminal, cylindrical spikes, 8-10cm long and 3-4cm diameter, borne on stalks. Female flowers are solitary, ovoid heads of densely packed ovaries each containing a single ovule, produced on thick stalks in the centre of leafy crowns.
Fruit: Pineapple like ovoid clusters with a diameter of 4–20 cm and a length of 8–30 cm. The fruit is made up of 38–200 wedge-like phalanges, which have an outer fibrous husk. Phalanges contain two seeds on average, with a maximum of eight. The phalanges are buoyant, and the seeds within them can remain viable for many months while being transported in ocean currents.
Growth Requirements: Slightly acid, sandy or well drained soils. Well suited for sub-tropical to tropical gardens below 600m altitude. They prefer full sun but will tolerate in up to 70% shade but will cease to fruit and flower at low light. Mulching and slow release fertilizer will help establish plant faster when planting.
Uses: Coastal and native gardens, feature tree for parks and gardens. More traditional uses: Important source of fiber for making hats, mats and bags, sails for outrigger canoes, roof thatch and grass skirts. Fruit can be used for decoration eaten and the fibrous nature used as a natural dental floss. Medicine, fuel and construction.
Maintenance: Mulching, watering during extended dry spells, pruning to remove dead and diseased wood.
Propagation: Sow individual seeds (keys) in pots using propagation mix. Place pots in sunny position
- Australian Palms Ferns Cycads and Pandans by Leonard Cronin.
- Photography by Simon Schubert.