Pandanus tectorius is a significant and beautiful tree species recognized on the Hawaiian Islands. It is found on every main island except for Kaho’olawe. The tree has also been found throughout the Pacific Islands in Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia, and as far west as northern Australia. It favors moisture of coastal locations as well as valley slopes with an elevation of up to 2,000 feet.
What Is Pandanus Tectorius?
Pandanus tectorius in Honolulu, HI is a smaller tree whose growth can reach up to 30 feet in the air and between 15 to 35 feet in diameter. Its trunk is observably stout, and its branches grow at wide angles. Its distinctive blade-like, long leaves (lua hala) grow to be 2 inches in width and over 2 feet long.
The fruit of pandanus tectorius is a major source of food across Micronesia. It can either be cooked or eaten raw and serves as one of the traditional foods of Maldivian cuisine. The fruit has a distinctive fibrous nature that serves as a natural type of dental floss.
The Samoan culture traditionally creates painted red necklaces out of the dried fruit. The leaves of the tree are a common flavoring in sweeter dishes, such as kaya jam, and are also believed to have rich medicinal properties.
Health, Culture, and Economic Importance
Second only to coconut on atolls, the small tree holds immense health, cultural, and economic importance to the Pacific. This semi-natural vegetation can withstand salt spray, strong winds, and drought. It propagates easily from seeds and branch cuttings, commonly used by local gardeners and farmers. The tree grows quickly and all parts are used: branches for construction, leaves for weaving, as well as edible fruits for nutrition.
Browse our website to learn more about the preservation of pandanus tectorius and its many uses in culture today.
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