Tree of the week- Madagascar Screw Pine

Screw pine

    Pandanus utilis

Family Pandanaceae

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Monocot dioecious (two plants)
This is an interesting tree we saw driving around in Florida. We had no idea what it was and we had trouble finding the name of it. Strangely, it is called the Screw Pine although it is not a pine nor does it resemble a pine. I am not sure how the Pine name got started. The tree turns out to be a tree from Madagascar and is often planted for an ornamental. The tree is in the flowering plant group, but it is a monocot; more like a grass, lily or orchid with parallel leaf veins. The flowers are of two types, male and female and borne on separate trees. The male, pollen producing flowers are large tresses of little flowers that hang down together in a grouping like a bunch of grapes but instead of grapes, they are small petalless flowers tumbling out pollen. The female flowers look more like a round soccer ball with little teeth all over it. We saw this one bearing green but ripening fruits that looked like hand grenades. They ripen up to an orangy red and then drop out things that look like giant kernals of corn. These fall all over the ground beneath the tree and are food for little animals such as rodents. They apparently are not good tasting for people to eat, although not a poisonous fruit.

The trees are quite ornamental in a strange looking way. They develop many prop roots around the base of the trunk that are quite striking. The tree grows to about 25 feet tall and about the same size spread. If you are selecting one to grow in the landscape, you should decide whether you want to pick up hand grenade type fruits when they drop all over the lawn or polleny inflorescences. Both sexes create some mess that requires clean up.

Overall, an interesting tree for a specimen in the landscape.


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