Common Name: Pandanus 

Botanical Name: Pandanus spiralis 

Larrakia Name: Biyarmarrma 

This distinctive tree can grow up to 10m high with aerial roots. The leaves are narrow and sword-like with barbs. Leaves are arranged in a spiralling pattern. Large fruit from June – October starting green and becoming bright orange in colour before falling to the ground and breaking into segments. A small kernel can be found in these segments and may be eaten raw or roasted. Commonly found in swamps, lagoons, billabongs and the edges of floodplains where it will form large stands. Also found in open forest and woodlands and along coastal dunes and foreshores. 

Aboriginal Uses 

This is a very important plant for Aboriginal people. When the orange fruit falls to the ground, it signals that the sea turtle eggs are being laid on the beaches.

Fibre from leaves is prepared and woven to make dillybags, mats, baskets, armbands and rope. The trunks are used to make rafts and didgeridoos and used to carry hot coals. The core of stem is used for making a green dye and is also an antiseptic packing for wounds. The seeds are found in the woody fruit and can be eaten raw. They are similar to pine kernels and very tasty, high in oil content and a much sought after food. The soft fleshy base of the leaves is eaten raw and contains carbohydrates and is considered good "walking tucker". When the fruit is dried out, it can be thrown into the fire and the smoke produced acts as a mosquito repellent. Eye drops are prepared from the soft white bases of the leaves, chopped up and boiled in water. When cool, the clear liquid is dropped into the eye to relieve inflammation and treat infection. A preparation made from a section of prop-root that is boiled in water is applied as a liquid wash for scabies.

Interesting Facts

In more recent times, weaving has become an important art form.

Items such as baskets, mats and jewellery are being created and sold through art centres and galleries.

The gathering, dyeing and weaving of pandanus is a social event that encourages intergenerational transfer of knowledge.

Bark, berries, leaves and roots are prepared to create dyes and incorporate colour into the weaving process.  


“When ladies sit down and do the weaving, they teach the younger ones. 

They teach them about  the pandanus- where they get them, how they do it, how they make it and how they weave. The young ones learn from watching and hearing the stories.

It makes the different languages strong and helps the younger ones learn about kinship, tribes, ceremonies and the old stories.

All these stories are in the patterns, colours and gaps in the weaving.”

Rrikili Garrawurra,
Nungalinya teacher.