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Thursday, 7 August 2008


Beaches and cliffs of the North Coast of New South Wales, Australia (where I live) just wouldn’t be the same without these amazing trees and yet it wasn’t long ago that they all seemed to be endangered.

Pandanus or Screw Palms stand like so many ugly/beautiful sentries along miles of our coast, punctuating the landscape with their sculptural silhouettes.
Their football-size fruit can stay on the tree for as long as a year and were used as food by Aborigines who sucked them or broke the shell to eat the seeds.

They also pounded and/or boiled the core of the trunk for diarrhoea and stomach pain, mouth sores and toothache and to relieve colds and flu.
However, experts warn that native plants should not be tasted without proper indentification and guidance as to use.

Horticulturists call the peculiar forms at the bottom of the trees ‘prop roots’ that the plant apparently developed as a way of supporting itself in loose sand.
These were also sometimes used as medicine and new shoots are also supposed to be edible, with the heart good chopped and added to a salad.
Every part of the plant was useful: Aborigines made headbands from leaves and wove them into dillybags. They even used the trunk to construct rafts.

These days the palms still help to emphasise the beauty of the coastline and are very popular with tourists and locals alike.
You can imagine the trepidation when we noticed a few years ago that the pandanus had begun to die.
However scientists got to work with a campaign to save the species from the effects of infestation of an insect called the planthopper.
This little beastie produces a sticky substance called honeydew, which encourages mould growth.
This eventually kills the tree's growing points, causing the death of the entire tree.
These days our pandanus seem to be healthy again, as you can see in these pictures which I took on a recent walk …
I’m indebted to the following University of Sydney website for details of indigenous use of this palm:


  1. Good Morning to you June! This was such an interesting post. I truly enjoyed learning about your trees. Australia is such an interesting place and is so beautiful. I just got a book about your country. It is called, "In A Sunburned Country" by Bill Bryson. Very interesting. I am so glad your readers have picked up. I have to get over and read your new stories. They are all just fascinating and wonderful.

  2. G'day again Judy
    Pleased you enjoyed meeting the pandanus palm! An amazing plant.
    Your reference to Bill Bryson and his book on Australia got me thinking about the poem that inspired his title. Have a look on my next post in 70 Plus and Still Kicking when you have time.
    He was really smitten with Australia and I don't blame him. Although I do have some reservations about his opinion that the interior of Australia has a 'Martian-like desert middle'. The fact is that so many people seem to whizz through the Outback at a great rate of knots, not stopping to LOOK! (Bryson may have seen it from the air, even though he does visit here often.)
    The place is often teeming with life - be it tiny fauna or exquisite desert flowers and interesting scrub. (Although I must admit there are places which are pretty desolate.) I remember stopping in a deserted area in the 1980s with 500km between petrol stations (or anything else) only to be approached by a pair of brolga (beautiful big birds of the crane family). They seemed to be reasonably tame, so I suppose many other people besides us had stopped there.
    June in Oz


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