Pandanus is a genus of monocots with about 600 known species. They are palm-like, dioecious trees and shrubs native to the Old World tropics and subtropics. They are classified in the order Pandanales, family Pandanaceae.
Often called pandanus palms, these plants are not closely related to palm trees. The species vary in size from small shrubs less than 1 metre (3.3 ft) tall, to medium-sized trees 20 metres (66 ft) tall, typically with a broad canopy, heavy fruit, and moderate growth rate. The trunk is stout, wide-branching, and ringed with many leaf scars. They commonly have many thick prop roots near the base, which provide support as the tree grows top-heavy with leaves, fruit, and branches. The leaves are strap-shaped, varying between species from 30 centimetres (12 in) to 2 metres (6.6 ft) or longer, and from 1.5 centimetres (0.59 in) up to 10 centimetres (3.9 in) broad.
They are dioecious, with male and female flowers produced on different plants. The flowers of the male tree are 2–3 centimetres (0.79–1.2 in) long and fragrant, surrounded by narrow, white bracts. The female tree produces flowers with round fruits that are also bract-surrounded. The fruits are globose, 10–20 centimetres (3.9–7.9 in) in diameter, and have many prism-like sections, resembling the fruit of the pineapple. Typically, the fruit changes from green to bright orange or red as it matures. The fruit of some species are edible. Pandanus fruit are eaten by animals including bats, rats, crabs, elephants and monitor lizards, but the vast majority of species are dispersed primarily by water.
They are numerous, palm-like, dioecious trees and shrubs of the Old World tropic growing from sea level to 3,300 m. The adventitious roots are large and often branched; the tops have a crown of narrow spiny leaves. They are large shrubs or small trees of cultural, health, and economic importance in the Pacific, second only to coconut on atolls. They grow wild mainly in seminatural vegetation in littoral habitats throughout the tropical and subtropical Pacific, where they can withstand drought, strong winds, and salt spray. They propagate readily from seed, but also are widely propagated from branch cuttings by local people. It grows fairly and quickly. The genus is native to most of the tropical islands. Three species of screwpine are commonly found in Maldives. Species with large and medium fruit are edible. Pandanus is one of the iconic tree genera of the New South Wales north coast.
Species growing on exposed coastal headlands and along beaches have thick 'prop roots' as anchors in the loose sand. Those prop roots emerge from the stem, usually close to but above the ground, which helps to keep the plants upright and secure them to the ground. Some species of Pandanus trees can grow up to 6 m high. They have long, thin, light-green leaves, which grow in spirals on the plants' stems. As the plants grow, the leaves drop off, leaving 'scars' on the stems. In some species of Pandanus, the fruits look a bit like a woody pineapple. They hang from the branches, and can stay on the tree for more than 12 months. The genus normally does not have branches, but very old specimens can have branches. Its strange appearance impacts all travelers who find them. The trunk is covered with smooth, mottled bark. The roots forms a pyramidal tract to hold the trunk.
While all pandanus palms are distributed in the tropical Pacific islands, they are most numerous on the low islands and barren atolls of Polynesia and Micronesia. The tree is grown and propagated from shoots that form spontaneously in the axils of lower leaves. Its fruit can float and spread to other islands without help from man. Other species are adapted to mountain habitats and riverine forests. The fruit is a drupe.
Cultivation and uses
Pandan is used for handicrafts. Craftsmen collect the pandan leaves from plants in the wild. Only the young leaves are cut so the plant will naturally regenerate. The young leaves are sliced in fine strips and sorted for further processing. Weavers produce basic pandan mats of standard size or roll the leaves into pandan ropes for other designs. This is followed by a coloring process, in which pandan mats are placed in drums with water-based colors. After drying, the colored mats are shaped into final products, such as place mats or jewelry boxes. Final color touch-ups may be applied.
Pandan (P. amaryllifolius) leaves are used in Southeast Asian cooking to add a distinct aroma to rice and curry dishes such as nasi lemak, kaya ('jam') preserves, and desserts such as pandan cake. In Indian cooking, the leaf is added whole to biryani, a kind of rice pilaf, made with ordinary rice (as opposed to that made with the premium-grade Basmati rice). The basis for this use is that both Basmati and Pandan leaf contain the same aromatic flavoring ingredient, 2-Acetyl-1-pyrroline. Pandan leaf can be used as a complement to chocolate in many dishes, such as ice cream. They are known as daun pandan in Indonesian and Malay; 斑蘭 (bān lán) in Mandarin and as ใบเตย (bai teuy) in Thailand. Fresh leaves are typically torn into strips, tied in a knot to facilitate removal, placed in the cooking liquid, then removed at the end of cooking. Dried leaves and bottled extract may be bought in some places.
Kewra is an extract distilled from the pandanus flower, used to flavor drinks and desserts in Indian cuisine. Also, kewra or kewadaa is used in religious worship, and the leaves are used to make hair ornaments worn for their fragrance as well as decorative purpose in western India.
Throughout Oceania, almost every part of the plant is used, with various species different from those used in Southeast Asian cooking. Pandanus trees provide materials for housing; clothing and textiles including the manufacture of dilly bags (carrying bags), fine mats or ‘ie toga; food, medication, decorations, fishing, and religious uses.
- Pandanus affinis
- Pandanus aldabraensis
- Pandanus amaryllifolius – pandan
- Pandanus atrocarpus
- Pandanus austrosinensis
- Pandanus balfourii
- Pandanus baptistii
- Pandanus boninensis
- Pandanus butayei
- Pandanus carmichaelii
- Pandanus christmatensis
- Pandanus clandestinus
- Pandanus conoideus
- Pandanus copelandii
- Pandanus corallinus
- Pandanus decastigma
- Pandanus decipiens
- Pandanus decumbens
- Pandanus dubius
- Pandanus elatus
- Pandanus fascicularis – screwpine
- Pandanus furcatus
- Pandanus graminifolius
- Pandanus gressitii
- Pandanus halleorum
- Pandanus humilis
- Pandanus hornei
- Pandanus joskei
- Pandanus kajui
- Pandanus labyrinthicus
- Pandanus lacuum
- Pandanus leram
- Pandanus linguiformis
- Pandanus luzonensis
- Pandanus microcarpus
- Pandanus montanus
- Pandanus multispicatus
- Pandanus nepalensis
- Pandanus odoratus
- Pandanus palustris
- Pandanus papenooensis
- Pandanus parvicentralis
- Pandanus parvus
- Pandanus petersii
- Pandanus polycephalus
- Pandanus pristis
- Pandanus punicularis
- Pandanus pygmaeus
- Pandanus pyramidalis
- Pandanus sanderi
- Pandanus sechellarum
- Pandanus spiralis – Australian screwpine
- Pandanus taveuniensis
- Pandanus tectorius – thatch screwpine
- Pandanus temehaniensis
- Pandanus teuszii
- Pandanus thomensis
- Pandanus utilis – common screwpine
- Pandanus vandermeeschii
- Pandanus veitchii – Veitch's screwpine
- Pandanus verecundus
- Pandanus whitmeeanus
- Germplasm Resources Information Network: Pandanus
- Sorting Pandanus names
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