Pandanus amaryllifolius

Common name: Scented pandan

Other common names: Fragrant pandan, Fragrant screwpine, Indonesian screwpine, Pandanus, Rampe

Names in non-English languages: Philippines India Thailand

Description

Scented Pandan is a perennial herb originating from Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia, where its leaves are used to both colour and  flavour local dishes.

Similar to other Pandanus, it develops a slender semi-woody stem topped with a crown of long sword-shaped leaves and may reach up to 8 m ( 26 ft) tall if left unmanaged. In the home garden, it is kept to between 0.5 and 1.5 m (1.6 and 5 ft) tall through the repeated harvesting of the leaves.

The stem is light brown and marked by leaf scars but is hardly visible in young plants, having not yet developed. It is spirally wrapped by the leaves, which are dark green, sword-shaped and up to 1 m (3 ft) long. As the plant ages, the stem grows taller and upright, lifting the leaves above the ground. At the same time, aerial roots arise along the length and those near the base grow stilt-like, anchoring the plant in the soil.

Scented Pandan is not known to flower and fruit in cultivation and instead regenerates from root suckers.

Use

Scented Pandan is commonly cultivated in Southeast Asia, India and Sri Lanka for its leaves, which are harvested when young and added to dishes to impart their sweet, musky, somewhat nutty aroma. They are mostly added to steamed rice, curry dishes, as well as to desserts, particularly those incorporating coconut milk.

Usually one or two leaves are tied in a knot and added to the rice water, curry sauce or dessert mixture at the start of the cooking process, then when the cooking is finished they are removed and discarded. In Thailand, the leaves are also used to wrap pieces of marinated chicken and fish into parcels which are then deep-fried, or the parcels are first steamed then deep-fried and served with a spicy dipping sauce.

A green food colouring is made by cutting and crushing or blending the leaves with water. Its use is common in colouring cakes, jellies and puddings served up in bakeries and sweet shops in India and Southeast Asia.

The leaves, being bright green, long and slender also lend themselves to being used in floral arrangement, particularly tall arrangements, as backing greenery or accent foliage.

Scented Pandan is sometimes planted in garden beds as a groundcover or fragrant border.


Pandan flavoured cake topped with coconut cream and toasted sesame seed (Secret House Cafe, Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam)

General interest

In Southeast Asia and particularly Singapore, pandanus is planted as a cockroach repellent. Some evidence to support this comes from a research study evaluating the action of different essential oils in repelling the American Cockroach (Periplaneta americana), published in the Journal of Agricultural Technology Vol. 9, no. 6 (2013): pp 1613-1620.

The study found, however, that although pandanus leaf oil provided 57% repellency, it was not as effective as the essential oils of Tumeric (Curcuma longa), Cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum), Ginger (Zingiber officinale) or Clove (Syzygium aromaticum) which provided 100% repellency against the  American Cockroach.

Climate

Grows naturally in humid subtropical and tropical climates, generally in areas with annual lows of 18 to 25 °C, annual highs of 27 to 35 °C, annual rainfall of 1200 to 5000 mm and a dry season of 6 months or less.

Scented Pandan can also be grown in pots or containers in cooler climates, if it can be moved indoors when temperatures fall consistently below 15 °C (59 °F).

How to grow

New plants are usually started from cuttings, divisions or suckers as seed are not normally produced. Tip cuttings work well and are set in a coarse sand mixture in the shade to develop roots before replanting. Divisions and suckers taken from established clumps can be replanted directly.

Performs best in rich, free-draining loam and sand soils of a moderately acid to slightly alkaline nature, generally with pH of 5.0 to 7.5 and on sites with full to partial sun exposure

Problem features

It is recorded as having escaped cultivation in Singapore, probably as a result of its suckering habit causing localised spread, but there does not appear to any record of it anywhere as a serious weed or invasive species.

Where it will grow

With irrigation or groundwater

References

Books

  • Jacquat, C. & Bertossa, G. 1990, Plants from the markets of Thailand : descriptions and uses of 241 wild and cultivated plants, with 341 colour photographs, Editions Duang Kamol, Bangkok

  • Macmillan, H. F. 1943, Tropical planting and gardening : with special reference to Ceylon, 5th ed, Macmillan Publishing, London

  • Norrington, L. & Campbell, C. 2001, Tropical food gardens : a guide to growing fruit, herbs and vegetables in tropical and sub-tropical climates, Bloomings Books, Hawthorn, Victoria

  • Randall, R. P. 2002, A global compendium of weeds, R.G. and F.J. Richardson Press, Melbourne

  • Randall, R. P. 2007, The introduced flora of Australia and its weed status, Cooperative Research Centre for Australian Weed Management, Glen Osmond, South Australia

  • Seidemann, J. 2005, World spice plants: economic usage botany taxonomy, Springer-Verlag, Berlin

  • Selvam, V. 2007, Trees and shrubs of the Maldives, Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) RAP publication (Maldives), Thammada Press Company Ltd., Bangkok

  • Staples, G. & Kristiansen, M. S. 1999, Ethnic culinary herbs : a guide to identification and cultivation in Hawaii, University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu

© All rights reserved Iplantz 2020