Pandanus tectorius: Screw Pine Plant

The Pandanus family can be traced as far back as the late Cretaceous period from fossilized remains of plants that have been discovered. The genus Pandanus includes some 300 species distributed in the tropics of Asia and Africa, the Malay Archipelago and the Pacific Islands. They are mostly robust plants with numerous prop roots; some are climbers. The leaves are arranged in rows of three or in a spiral; often they form a tuft at the top of the stem or at the tips of separate branches.

The species is indigenous to south Asia, its range extending to Polynesia and Australia. In its native land it often grows on the banks of canals which it strengthens with its numerous prop roots. This, of course, is not its only useful aspect. The firm leaves provide fibres for primitive fabrics and the plants also yield volatile oils. In its native land P. tectorius (syn. P. odoratissimus) is a tree-like shrub reaching a height of 5 m (16 ft). The leaves have sharp white spines on the margins and on the keel formed by the midrib. The entire leaf measures about 2 m (6 ft).

More often encountered in cultivation are the variegated species or variegated cultivars of green-leaved species. Most widely grown are Pandanus veitchii with leaves 5 to 6 cm (2 to 2-¾ in) across, and with whitish-yellow longitudinal stripes; P. sanderi, which is very similar but is much more spiny; and occasionally also P. variegatus, which has linear leaves with fine, pale-coloured stripes and white or purple spines. A green-leaved pandanus worthy of note is the magnificent P. pacificus, which forms a ground rosette of dark-green leaves up to 80 cm (32 in) long and about 12 cm (4-¾ in) across. The correctness of the naming of individual ‘species’ of pandanus is very doubtful; often it is a case of ‘florist’s names’ given to plants that are, in fact, cultivars.

Pandanus is propagated by detaching the shoots that form at the base of the stem and inserting them in a peat and sand compost. Mature plants need a more nourishing substrate with peat, sand and loam. Pandanus is a very decorative plant which is much suited to modern homes where the temperature does not drop below 15°C (59°F).

15. November 2011 by Dave Pinkney
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