Pandanus tectorius – Hala
Other Common Names: Pineapple Tree, Pu Hala, Tahitian Screwpine, Pandanus, Pandan, Textile Screwpine, Screw Pine, Thatch Screwpine, Tourist Pineapple
Pandanus tectorius is a small perennial tree that is native to eastern Australia, Malesia, and the Pacific Islands. It belongs to the Pandanaceae family, and is also known by its common names like Tahitian Screwpine, Screw Pine, Textile Screwpine, Thatch Screwpine, Pandanus, Pandan, Pineapple Tree, Tourist Pineapple, Pu Hala, or simply Hala.
It grows upright, reaching 4 to 14 meters or 13 to 46 feet in height. It has a single, stout, prickly trunk with brown-ringed bark, which can grow up to 4.5 to 11 meters or 15 to 35 feet in diameter. It has aerial roots that support and anchors the tree firmly to the ground, and sometimes even grow along the branch.
The medium to dark green leaves of the Hala tree are long and shaped like a blade or sword, growing to over 2 feet long and 2 inches wide. They are arranged spirally at the end of the branch and have jagged margins and spines along the edges. That is why, when leaves fall, they also leave a spiral pattern on the trunk.
Hala trees can either be male or female. The difference is that male trees produce small, fragrant flowers in large clusters that are about one foot long. The flowers, colored cream or white are known as racemes and are very short lived as they last only for a day.
On the other hand, female trees produce fruits that resemble pineapples, but they are not related. The fruit can be yellow, orange, or red, and contain an average of two seeds. They can be eaten raw or cooked, and is actually a traditional component of Maldivian cuisine.