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What’s Blooming in Paradise: Screw Pine (Pandanus utilis)

By Staff | May 13, 2015

Screw Pine (Pandanus utilis). Anita Force Marshall

First impression: Tropical, exotic long linear leaves clumped in masses on torturous stems. The slender gray trunk is small in comparison to its canopy. This tree has slim mangrove-like legs between its trunk and the ground. The flower is fuzzy white to tan color, partitioned with a creamy white and green flower bracs. Pollinators all around, and I detect a faint perfumed scent linger in the breeze.

Don’t get lost in these twisted torturous branches, now blooming at the Botanical Gardens of the Sanibel Moorings.

Upon further investigation: Our Screw Pine is a member of around 650 species of trees and shrubs from Madagascar and the tropics. It is not related to the pine tree family but classified among the monocots which are related to grasses, orchids, and palms. This beauty is great by itself as a specimen plant or used as finales for an impressive entrance. Their stiff sword-like leaves are two to three inches long and olive green in color. Be careful they have tiny teeth along the edges that can scratch. The screwy-like arrangement of the dense leaves are attached to unbelievably curly, curvy, slender gray branches. The pine part of its name comes from the lovely pomegranate-like fruit the female tree produces. It could have reminded our ancestors of a pine cone.

Our star comes in either male or female and both genders flower. The female flower is closer to the leaves whereas the male flower is long and cascading and resembles a loofah sponge. The male flowers are encased by creamy colored bracs and are noted for his sweet fragrance and oodles of pollinators. The female flowers eventually turn into a lovely dimensional pine-cone fruit. Both mature trunks are palm-like smooth, cement gray and straight.

Considered an evergreen tree whose mature height can be 20-25 feet, it’s perfect for our temperatures of dry climates and coastal areas. Plant in partial shade to full sun in a well-drained area. As the Screw Pines grow larger they produce prop roots around the base of their trunks. These legs are always a conversation piece, and make this tropical tree unique. They are its main reason for survival in flooding and heavy winds.

Screw Pine (Pandanus utilis). Anita Force Marshall

Pandandus is the native word for roofs, which is what its leaves are harvested for now and in days gone by. Today these stiff leaves are still a favorite for weavers of mats, baskets, hats and toys.

Pros:

* Unique bloom.

* Does well in sandy soils.

* Likes full sun.

* Survivor in storms.

* Discover your inner talent for weaving.

* Great specimen plant.

* Blooming brings in the pollinators.

* Non-invasive exotic.

Cons:

* Daily clean up when leaves are shedding.

* Non-native.

* May grow tired of telling neighbors its name.

* Slow grower.

* Leaves are toothed and sharp.

* Always mistaken for a palm.

Conclusion: Screw Pine is an architectural whirlwind with a very unique boom. Don’t get dizzy with its zigs and zags in our eye-catching tropical garden.

Don’t wanna miss this bloomer!