Murrhala

(MOOD-ah-lah)

Pandanus

Pandanus spiralis

Description

A multi-stemmed tree to 10 m high; leaves elongate to 1.5 m long with prickles along midrib and margins; Flowers small, white; fruit woody in composite heads to 35 cm diameter, orange-red. Found in variety of poorly drained and low lying habitats. Fruit June-October.

Uses

The leaves are used to make fibre for baskets and mats, Maydirri. The cabbage at the base of the leaves is chewed to quench thirst, it is obtained by pulling out the new unopened leaves.

The seeds, yiyandulanda, are eaten after the woody fruit segments, ngalkbunu, have been chopped open.

The old stems can be used to make didgeridus, any holes being plugged with wax from native beehives. The dry fibres inside old rotting stems were used in the past as stuffing in the taxidermy of Hawksbill Turtles, Greenback Turtles and Saltwater Crocodiles, which were once items of trade.

The dried stems were also used to carry fire, these were called inyjangalangarr. Kulajiji is the term used to refer to the thorns or the new stems. The prop roots are boiled and used to make dye. Cockatoos pull the leaves off the stem to expose the cabbage, which they then eat.

(Source: Blake, N., Wightman, G., and Williams, L. 1998. Iwaidja Ethnobotany, p. 104. Darwin. NT Botanical Bulletin No. 23, Parks and Wildlife Commission, Darwin.)