Family : Pandanaceae
Text © Pietro Puccio
English translation by Mario Beltramini
The species is native to the Molucca Islands where are present exclusively male specimens.
The name of the genus comes from the Malay one “pandang”; the name of the species is the combination of the name of the genus Amaryllis and of the adjective in botanical Latin “folius, a, um” = provided of leaves, due to the resemblance of the leaves.
Common names: dwarf screw pine, fragrant screw pine, scented pandan (English); xiang lu dou (Chinese); pandan-mabango (Tagalog); taey (Khmer); tey ban (Lao); pandan rampai, pandai rampeh, pandan wangi (Malay); rampe (Cingalese); ramba (Tamil); bai toey, paanae wo-nging, toey-hom (Thai); dứa thơm, la dứa (Vietnamese).
The Pandanus amaryllifolius Roxb. (1832) is a perennial dioecious species, evergreen, with ramified stems provided of aerial roots and leaves spirally arranged. Two forms are known, one of contained size, that is by far the most cultivated due to the fragrant leaves, and the other of relatively bigger size, but with less fragrant leaves.
The first, very ramified, has stems up to 1-1,5 m of length and of 2-5 cm of diameter, ascending or decumbent, and linear imbricate leaves, 25-65 cm long and 2,5-4 cm broad, keeled, unarmed, but at the apex where are present tiny thorns, of glossy intense green colour above, more or less glaucous below. The second, little ramified, has stems, of 2-4 m of length and up to 15 cm of diameter, with robust aerial roots that penetrate the ground, and linear leaves, 1,5-2,2 m long and 7-10 cm broad, with the same characteristics as the previous, but less aromatic. Are known only male inflorescences, rarely produced, of the second form, in the Molucca Islands, panicle terminal, about 60 cm long, formed by cylindrical racemes of decreasing length towards the apex surrounded by whitish bracts.
It is oviously reproduced only by vegetative way, easily by division of tufted plants, utilizing branches having adventitious roots, and through the plantules forming at the base. It can propagate, with more difficulty, by means of apical cuttings in draining loam with addition of sand or perlite for a 50% maintained humid, but without stagnations, placed in partially shady position till the complete rooting.
Cultivated since remote times due to the fragrant leaves utilized for flavouring many dishes, in particular those based on rice, to which confers a smell and a taste similar to that of prized aromatic varieties, such as ambemohor, basmati and khao hom mali (known as Thai jasmine rice), confectionery and beverages, and for perfuming the water utilized in the religious services. The leaves release the maximum aroma after about two days from the cutting, but loose it when completely dry, and are not consumed, but taken off by the end of cooking, and besides the aroma they confer the foods a typical green colour.
The leaves and the oil extracted are utilized in the traditional medicine of several countries of South-East Asia for various pathologies. Laboratory studies have evidenced the presence in the extracts of the leaves numerous bioactive compounds of possible interest for the official pharmacopoeia, as well as compounds with insect-repellent properties likely to be furtherly investigated of a possible employment.
It requires a warm-humid climate, its cultivation in open field is consequently limited to the only tropical and subtropical zones, an exposition in full sun or slightly shaded and draining soils rich of organic substance maintained almost constantly humid. The plants tuft easily and usually only one plant is sufficient for the family uses.
Finally, are not to be undervalued its ornamental characteristics as garden plant, also of small dimensions, and in pot, in open air where the climate allows so, or in greenhouses, verandahs and particular luminous inner spaces, with lowest temperatures not under the 15 °C. The waterings must be regular, but with no stagnations, and the fertilizations, from spring to autumn, done with hydrosoluble products balanced with microelements. In closed spaces is easily subject to the attack of parasites, such as mites and mealybugs, it is therefore to be kept under control in order to take prompt action with specific products.
Synonyms: Pandanus latifolius Hassk. (1842); Pandanus latifolius var. minor Hassk. (1844); Pandanus hasskarlii Merr. (1917); Pandanus odorus Ridl. (1925).
The photographic file of Giuseppe Mazza