An Eco-sustainable World
ArborealSpecies Plant

Pandanus utilis

Pandanus utilis

The common screwpine (Pandanus utilis Bory, 1804) is an arboreal species belonging to the Pandanaceae family.

Systematic –
From a systematic point of view it belongs to:
Eukaryota domain,
Kingdom Plantae,
Division Magnoliophyta,
Class Liliopsida,
Subclass Arecidae,
Order Pandanales,
Pandanaceae family,
Genus Pandanus,
Species P. utilis.
The terms are synonymous:
– Hasskarlia globosa (Hassk.) Walp.;
– Marquartia globosa Hassk.;
– Pandanus candelabrum Hook., 1857;
– Pandanus distichus Anon.;
– Pandanus elegantissimus J.J.Veitch;
– Pandanus flabelliformis Carrière;
– Pandanus maritimus Thouars;
– Pandanus mauritianus Lem.;
– Pandanus nudus Thouars;
– Pandanus odoratissimus Eggers;
– Pandanus odoratissimus Jacq.;
– Pandanus sativus Thouars;
– Pandanus spurius Miq.;
– Pandanus utilis hort.;
– Pandanus utilis hort. ex H.Wendl.;
– Pandanus utilis subsp. stephanocarpa;
– Pandanus utilis var. stephanocarpa (Gaudich.) Brongn.;
– Pandanus vacqua Carmich.;
– Pandanus vacqua Carmich. ex Balf.f.;
– Vinsonia consanguinea Gaudich.;
– Vinsonia consanguinea Gaudich. ex Balf.f.;
– Vinsonia macrostigma Gaudich.;
– Vinsonia macrostigma Gaudich. ex Balf.f.;
– Vinsonia media Gaudich.;
– Vinsonia media Gaudich. ex Balf.f.;
– Vinsonia propinqua Gaudich.;
– Vinsonia propinqua Gaudich. ex Balf.f.;
– Vinsonia stephanocarpa Gaudich.;
– Vinsonia striata Gaudich.;
– Vinsonia striata Gaudich. ex Balf.f.;
– Vinsonia thouarsii Gaudich.;
– Vinsonia thouarsii Gaudich. ex Balf.f.;
– Vinsonia utilis Gaudich..

Etymology –
The term Pandanus derives from the Malay vernacular “pandang”.
The specific epithet utilis comes from the Latin “utils, and”, that is, useful, in reference to the leaves and fibers obtained from them and widely used by local populations for multiple uses.

Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
Pandanus utilis is a plant native to Madagascar and Mauritius; it has also been introduced by humans to Puerto Rico, Florida and California.
Its main habitat is along the coasts on sandy soils.

Description –
Pandanus utilis is a dioecious, perennial, evergreen monocotyledonous plant, growing in the form of a small tree, with a thick, densely spiraling crown.
In cultivation it usually does not exceed 6-9 m in height, with branched stems equipped at the base with stilt-shaped aerial roots, 3-8 cm in diameter, which in addition to the normal function of absorption and anchoring support the foliage.
The leaves are densely arranged in a spiral in three series at the apex of the branches, they are simple, sessile with a base partially embracing the stem, linear, keeled, with a long pointed apex, 0.5-2 m long and 4-11 cm wide, of dark bluish green color, waxy; margins and midrib are provided with reddish spines curved towards the apex, 1-4 mm long.
The inflorescences are terminal, with the male ones hanging like a panicle, 30-80 cm long, with lateral spike-like ramifications subtended by whitish bracts, carrying a dense multitude of flowers without a perianth, with 8-12 creamy yellow, odorous stamens; the female inflorescences are globular with closely placed flowers consisting of only the ovary and the sessile stigma.
The fruit is a globose syncarp; it is pendant, 15-22 cm in diameter, composed of 100-200 angular drupes due to mutual pressure, about 4 cm long, free in the upper half, initially green, then yellow when ripe, with a reddish band at the base.

Cultivation –
Pandanus utilis is a shrub or small evergreen tree that is grown or harvested directly in nature.
The plant is prized primarily for its leaves, which are used for straw, woven into baskets, mats, bags, sacks etc. It also provides useful fiber as well as an edible fruit and inflorescence.
It is a plant typically found in hot tropical and subtropical areas.
This species has been cultivated since ancient times in the Mascarene and Madagascar for its numerous uses, it subsequently spread to the African countries surrounding this island and from the beginning of the 19th century it was introduced in various tropical and subtropical regions for its remarkable ornamental features. Cultivation can be attempted in milder temperate-warm areas where temperatures close to 0 °C are exceptional and short-lived events.
It is a plant of great effect as an isolated specimen, due to the dimensions it can reach in height and width it is suitable for parks and large gardens, avoiding places of passage and rest due to the presence of thorns. It requires full sun, or light shade, and perfectly draining soils, preferably sandy, even poor, both acidic and alkaline. It also tolerates a certain degree of salinity and grows well near the sea.
Particularly slow growing, it initially benefits from regular watering and fertilization, well-rooted specimens require little care and can withstand dry periods. Young plants, in particular of the red-edged variety, ‘Red Edge’, are grown in containers for the decoration of patios and open spaces.
The plant is also grown as an ornament in gardens, where it is appreciated above all for its fragrant flowers.
The first harvest of leaves is not taken until the plant is three years old.
Subsequently the plants are cut regularly every two years.
The branches have no dormant buds and therefore will not sprout if cut into old wood.
Please remember that, being a dioecious plant, both the male and female forms must be grown if fruits and seeds are needed.
It propagates by seed, previously kept in water for 2 days, placed superficially on draining soil kept humid at a temperature of 28-30 °C, with germination times of 2-3 months. It can also reproduce through the seedlings that form at the base or by using large branches with an intact vegetative apex (having no dormant buds along the stem).

Customs and Traditions –
Pandanus utilis is a plant known by various names; among these we remember: common screw pine, common screw-pine, common screwpine, vacoa, vacoua palm (English); gewone Skroefpalm (Afrikaans); pain pain, pim pin (Creole-Réunion); baquois, baquoua, vacoa, vacuoa, vaquois (French); fandra, fandrana, hôfa, hoffa, vakoa, vakoana (Malagasy); pandano (Portuguese); palma de caracol, palma de tirabuzón, palma tornillo, pandano, pandano de cestas (Spanish); mkadi (Swahili); schraubenbäum (German).
In Madagascar, Mauritius and Réunion the leaves and aerial roots, even more resistant, cut into thin strips, are used to make ropes, nets, bags for grain, sugar and coffee, bags, hats, and other objects of common use and, with the advent of tourism, for artisanal and artistic objects whose demand is continually expanding; the leaves are also used as a covering for rural homes. Due to its dense foliage and resistance to saltiness, it is often used as a windbreak along the banks; in Réunion it often acts as a support in vanilla plantations (Vanilla planifolia Jacks. ex Andrews, 1808).
The fruits, which are a food source for small mammals, are edible after cooking, but not particularly appetizing, and the vegetative tips are locally consumed as vegetables.
In Africa the fruits of P. utilis are used to obtain a floury pulp, pleasant to the palate after cooking.
In Madagascar and the Mascarene Islands, the fibers obtained from the leaves and aerial roots of P. utilis are used for the artisanal production of ropes and bindings, as well as baskets, mats, hats, brushes, placemats and nets. They can also be used to make paper.
In Réunion, P. utilis trees are used as a support for the cultivation of vanilla (Vanilla planifolia).
In many tropical and subtropical regions they are used to create windbreaks or simply as ornamental plants.
In the temperate zones of North America and Europe, young specimens are often grown as houseplants.
Also in Réunion, the inflorescences of P. utilis are considered aphrodisiac, while decoctions of the roots are used as a remedy against venereal diseases.
Among other uses it is reported that in coastal areas this plant has been used for erosion control thanks to its numerous aerial roots. These roots help protect the sand dunes along the coast from water and wind erosion. The leaves of P. utilis are used in various cultures for roofing and for the production of numerous materials. In areas such as Madagascar, Réunion and Mauritius, the leaves are used to make ropes, baskets, mats, hats, placemats, nets, thatched roofs for houses and even paper. The waxy coating on the leaves makes them particularly attractive for bins and roofs with their natural water-resistant surface. The fruits are a starchy food and can be eaten after being cooked.
The following active ingredients have been extracted from this plant: pandalisins A and B which are two new indolizidine alkaloids.

Preparation Method –
Pandanus utilis is a plant that has been cultivated since ancient times in its area of origin.
Edible uses include male inflorescences and cooked fruits.
The cylindrical fruit is a syncarp made up of several single drupes. Individual drupes are hard, woody segments, each containing a few thin seeds.
Each segment has a fleshy base soaked in orange pulp, with a sweet smell and which in many species has a delicious flavour.
This pulp needs to be cooked to destroy a deleterious substance.
The seed often has a delicious nutty flavor when eaten raw or cooked, although it is tricky to extract.
The seeds contain 44-50% fat and 20-34% protein.
In the medicinal field, decoctions of the roots are used as a remedy against venereal diseases.
Cooked male inflorescences are believed to have aphrodisiac properties.
Among other uses, it is reported that bags for coffee, sugar and wheat are made from the leaves.
The leaves are also made into mats, baskets, hats and straw and are used for cordage and other purposes.
The leaves of young, unbranched trees are more suitable for weaving because they are longer and more flexible than leaves obtained from older, branched trees. They are prepared as soon as they are removed from the tree: the operation simply consists of dividing the leaves into fillets, 18-25 mm wide at the base, but tapered at the tip. They are 90 – 120 cm long.
One of these fillets can support the weight of a bag of sugar, about 63 kilos, without breaking.
The root fibers are much stronger than those of the leaves and are occasionally used for making rope and for mixing with jute in jute bags.
The aerial roots have been used for binding and in the making of baskets, mats and hats, and their ends to make coarse brushes for whitewashing.

Guido Bissanti

– Acta Plantarum – Flora of the Italian Regions.
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– GBIF, the Global Biodiversity Information Facility.
– Useful Tropical Plants Database.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (ed.), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora d’Italia, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Treben M., 2000. Health from the Lord’s Pharmacy, Advice and experiences with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Editore.

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Attention: Pharmaceutical applications and food uses are indicated for informational purposes only, they do not represent in any way a medical prescription; we therefore decline any responsibility for their use for healing, aesthetic or food purposes.

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