Pandanus odoratissimus, also known as the Fragrant Screw Pine or Kewda, is a species of flowering tree belonging to the Pandanaceae family. It is native to coastal and tropical environments in the Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands. Pandanus odoratissimus is commonly found growing in coastal areas, particularly along sandy beaches, and is well-adapted to withstand salt spray and strong winds.
Pandanus odoratissimus typically grows up to 4-10 meters in height, with some specimens reaching up to 20 meters. The tree has a unique growth habit, characterized by its aerial prop roots or stilt roots, which emerge from the trunk and provide support and stability in sandy or unstable soils. The tree has a straight or slightly twisted trunk with rough, greyish-brown bark.
The leaves of Pandanus odoratissimus are long, narrow, and sword-like, with a spirally arranged growth pattern around the trunk, giving the tree its common name, Screw Pine. The leaves are dark green, tough, and fibrous, with serrated margins and a prominent midrib.
Pandanus odoratissimus is dioecious, meaning that it produces separate male and female flowers on different trees. The male flowers are arranged in long, cylindrical inflorescences called spadices, with a strong, sweet fragrance that gives the tree its species name, odoratissimus. The female flowers are arranged in a large, pineapple-like structure called a syncarp, which turns from green to orange or red as it matures. The syncarp contains numerous small, wedge-shaped fruits, each containing a single seed.
Pandanus odoratissimus plays a vital role in the coastal ecosystem, providing habitat and food for various species of birds, fish, and other wildlife. The tree’s extensive root system helps to prevent soil erosion and stabilize shorelines.
The tree has various uses in traditional cultures. The leaves of Pandanus odoratissimus are used for weaving mats, baskets, and other handicrafts due to their toughness and flexibility. The fragrant male flowers are used to make perfumes and essential oils, while the fibrous roots are used for making ropes and cordage. The fruit of the tree is sometimes eaten raw or cooked, and the seeds can be ground into a flour.
Despite its wide distribution and cultural significance, Pandanus odoratissimus faces threats from habitat loss due to coastal development, deforestation, and climate change. Conservation efforts are necessary to protect this unique tree and the vital ecosystems it supports.