Pandanus spiralis

Pandanus is a genus of plants common to tropical Asia and Australia. There are about 650 species, most of which have a lot of stilt roots that help support the slender trunks. Pandanus tends to grow near water, either along coastlines or in marshy or wetland areas. (That was a clump of pandanus in the middle of the photo of Yellow Water Lagoon.)

Pandanus has long, narrow, palm-like leaves that are used extensively in most tropical areas, for weaving hats, baskets, mats, and even small sails, rope, and even wrapping foods for cooking. (If you’ve been to Thailand, you’ve probably enjoyed more than one dish cooked in pandanus leaves.)

Pandanus is also sometimes called screw palm or screw pine (I can only imagine that the “pine” appellation came after someone saw the somewhat cone-like fruit—because pandanus itself does not look at all like pine).

Traveling around the Top End, both in Kakadu and later in Darwin, I was delighted by the spiraling leaf patterns that give the screw palm its common name—most distinctly seen in the Pandanus spiralis. The leaves spiral up the trunk as the tree grows. In the wild, this leads to a leafy corkscrew. But in gardens, where the long pandanus fronds may be trimmed (as in the photo below), it is sometimes easier to discern the spiral pattern.
Screw palm

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Filed under Australia, Book, Geography, Nature, Travel

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