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screw pine tree, Pandanus utilis

Q:  I cut this structure off a tree in south Florida.  Can you tell me the name of the tree?

A:  I am not familiar with many of the plants grown in south Florida so I asked the help of a few of the local Extension agents in this area.  Ray Zerba, the Horticulture Extension agent in Clay County, used to work in south Florida and he immediately recognized the fruit immediately as belonging to the screw pine tree, Pandanus utilis.

Screw-Pine is really not a pine tree at all but more closely related to palms and grasses. It is capable of reaching 60 feet in height but is not usually seen over 25 feet in USDA hardiness zone 10 and 11, with a spread of 15 feet. This means it should not be planted in your cold hardiness zone of 8b.

Screw-pines are dioecious which means the male and female flowers are produced on separate plants (similar to hollies). The female plant is the one producing the large fruiting body in the photograph.  Growth rate is slow to moderate, depending upon fertilization and watering schedules, and Screw-Pine is very popular for use as a specimen or grown in containers.

It is important to remember to be careful about transporting seeds and plants from one part of the country to another. There always exists a possibility for these plants to become a pest or nuisance when transplanted. In addition, we have seen so many examples of insects and diseases being spread simply by humans moving plants from one site to another. When you are curious about a plant, consider taking a photograph of it, research it (or call your Extension agent), and then determine whether to plant it.  But remember, sometimes diseases and insects are difficult to detect, therefore purchasing plants from a reputable nursery is always the preferred method of obtaining specimens for your landscape.