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Screwpines

Screwpines

Screwpines are shrubs, trees, or vines belonging to the family Pandanaceae in order Pandanales, and the class Arecidae, which also includes the palms. Screwpines are native to the tropics of South and Southeast Asia, northern Australia, and west Africa. Despite their common name, screwpines are not related to the true pines, which are gymnosperms of the phylum Coniferophyta.

Screwpines are common elements of wet riverside and coastal forests. Screwpines typically grow with many stilt-like, prop roots arising from the stem of the plant, much like red mangroves. These prop roots provide additional support for the plants, which grow in soft, wet substrates.

Screwpines are much used by local peoples. In India, male flowers of breadfruit pardanus or pardong (Pandanus odoratissimus ) are soaked in water to extract a perfume. In Malaysia, leaves of the thatch screwpine (Pandanus tectorius ), are used for roof thatching and for flavoring certain kinds of bread. On the island of Madagascar, leaves of the common screwpine (P. utilis ) are used to make woven baskets and mats.

The fruits of many screwpines are large and greatly resemble pineapples. Fruits of P. odoratissimus serve as a source of nutrition in much of the Old World tropics. Breadfruit was the major cargo being carried by the mutinous British merchant ship, Bounty. Many other species of Pandanus produce large and nutritious fruits that are eaten by local people.

Screwpines are also fairly commonly used in the florists trade. Several species are used, but Pandanus vetchii is the most popular. There is even a florists cultivar of P. vetchii on the market called compacta.

See also Gymnosperm; Mangrove tree; Wetlands.

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