Tree Pandanus - Screwpine

Family Pandanaceae consists of branching strap-leafed plants some of which can grow up to 60 feet tall. They are commonly called "screwpines" because of their spiral growth habit, even though they are not related to pines. They are characterized by aerial prop roots which buttress and stabilize the trunk as it becomes top-heavy with leaves and fruit. There are two major genera, Pandanus which are free standing and tree-like, and Freycinetia which are vine-like tree climbing plants.

Most pandanus are used mainly for thatch, making mats, ropes and other craft and utilitarian products. Leaves of one species are much used in Southeast Asia as a flavoring and fruits of several others are eaten in their native regions.

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Pandan - [Daun Pandan (Indonesia); Pandan wangi (Malay); Bai Toey (Thailand); Dua thom, La dua (Viet); Pandanus amaryllifolius]

Strangely, this is the only pandanus with fragrant leaves, and they lack the dangerous sawtooth edges typical of pandanus. It also does not exist in the wild because it is sterile. Male flowers are extremely rare and female flowers have never been recorded by botanical science. It is, however, widespread through Southeast Asia by cultivation, propagated by cuttings. It is a small pandanus growing to a maximum of about 6 feet.

Pandan is predominantly used to flavor rice and sweet deserts. For sweets pandan extract is often used rather than the leaves, and it's often died a brilliant (hideous) green, the kind of colors Asians seem to like in their desserts. Pandan leaves are also used to wrap chicken before frying, lending it a light aromatic flavor.   Photo by Dekoelie distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution 1.0 Generic.

Hala - [Hala tree (Hawaii); Pandanus tectorius]

The exact origin of this tree is unknown as it was taken by Polynesians as far south as southeastern Australia and as far east as Hawaii. It is a medium size tree growing to about 45 feet and bears fruit up to nearly 8 inches diameter and 12 inches long.

The fruit of this tree, raw or cooked, is a very important food source through most of Micronesia where most food plants won't grow. It is not favored in Hawaii but has been eaten there in times of scarcity. The leaves, stripped of their toothy edges, were used in Hawaii to make grass skirts and woven into mats. Less carefully de-toothed leaves were used to thatch roofs.   Photo by Amos T Fairchild distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic.

Kiekie - [Freycinetia banksii]

Native to New Zealand, this pandanus is a tree climbing vine rather than a tree. In other characteristics, including aerial roots, it resembles the tree forms. If they can't find convenient trees to climb they make a tangled mass on the ground. The fruit is sweet and the flower bracts succulent, and both were appreciated by the native Maori in past times. Of course they also used the leaves for craft materials just as other populations used their pandanus.   Photo by Kahuroa contributed to the public domain.

Red Fruit - [Kuansu (Papua); Buah merah (Indonesia); Pandanus conoideus]

Endemic to Papua (formerly Dutch New Guinea) this pandanus produces elongated red fruits which may grow longer than 3 feet and 7 inches diameter. The fruits are edible and are typically split, wrapped in leaves and baked in an earth oven. Some are promoting it as having anti-AIDS properties, but there is no organized evidence for this.   Photo by Paul distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic.

Kewra - [Kewra, Kewda (Hindi); Ketaki, Kewda (Marathi); Keora (Bengali); Kiora (Urdu); Pandanus fascicularis]
Leaves and Fruit

This pandanus is found from southern India to Taiwan and the Ryukyu Islands. Its aromatic male flowers are processed into flower essences used to flavor food, mainly in northern India. they are also used to make perfumes, aromatic oils and medicinal distillates. Kewra water is interchangeable with other flower essences such as rose and orange water. The flowers are reputed to attract snakes.   Photo by Razib Mustafiz distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike v3.0 Unported.

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