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.
However, experts warn that native plants should not be tasted without proper indentification and guidance as to use.
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: http://science.uniserve.edu.au/school/curric/stage4_5/nativeplants/native_plants.pptedu.au
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