Variegated Pandanus

Originally posted on The Expat Garden(er)

In my catastrophe post, I briefly introduced one of my new plants: the variegated Pandanus. Pandanus is one of those plants that I have a fondness for for many kind of backward reasons. First, the plant was introduced to me through Mr. Subjunctive on Plants Are The Strangest People. Besides the humour and excellent writing style, Mr. Subjunctive is also very informative and a great reference when trying to figure out how to take care of the latest batch of impulse buys at the local nursery or garden centre. Second, my fondness for Pandanus is for its utility and misanthropy--some species are edible, but many have spines on the leaf edges and midrib. And the things can get huge, pretty fast, too. All of these things were pluses for me--I like a plant that's dangerous, useful, fast-growing, and huge. Pandanus certainly fits that bill!

So I bought one from eBay back in January 2010, because I couldn't find one locally and the man from Hawaii offered the cheapest one I found online. When I got it, I excitedly unwrapped it from its packaging, and daintily planted the small pup in its own pot with a mix of soil that was free-draining but also water-retaining. What I've learned about it since then is that it could probably have withstood a lot less awesome soil and a lot less pampering--Pandanus is one tough cookie!

So when I came upon a group of small, variegated plants with little teeth on the leaf margins and along the midrib at the campus landscapery/greenhouse, I wondered what they were. I asked the nice man who tends the plants in the greenhouse, and he said "Pandan." I swooped down, grabbed the pot of variegated Pandanus, and said "Done. It's mine." For 10 riyal! That's $2.67 US. There are many other plants I'd love to give a home to from that greenhouse.



Here is my new variegated Pandanus with the nonvariegated P. veitchii that I've had for at least a year and a half. P. veitchii would have looked better had I not chopped off half of his lower leaves and completely unrooted him for travel to Saudi Arabia, but he's doing quite well now in his new home. This photo was taken a few weeks ago, actually--P. veitchii's leaves have mostly unkinked themselves, straightening out from when I folded them to fit them into the duffel bag for the airplane.




Here's the variegated Pandanus's leaf spines. They don't look that large, but rub a piece of finger, arm, or leg up against this, and it hurts like heck!


I won't be trying these in any edible concoctions, because I'm not sure whether they are actually the edible varieties. But it's good to know I have a plant that's a potential weapon, a potential food source, and a pretty vigorous grower. It's also a bonus that these plants grow well here--I've seen lime-green-coloured Pandanus in planters around the university, as well as these variegated ones in the greenhouse. I like to believe it's a positive sign of environmental compatibility when I see plants available for sale and installed in landscapes in an area.

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